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Prosecuting disability hate crime: a case study

Stephen Sparkes, District Crown Prosecutor and hate crime lead for CPS East of England:

“The victim was aged 70 and lived alone. He had limited mobility and was unwell. The offender, who lived in the same block of flats, used a false name to befriend the victim and gain his trust.

“His plan worked - the victim began to trust him as a friend, giving him his bank card and PIN to withdraw money for him. The victim soon noticed that he was missing £180, as well as his front door key, and reported this to the police.

“Without permission, the offender had taken money from the victim’s wallet and used his card details to make £1700 worth of fraudulent transactions over four months.

“The case first came to us when the police asked us to decide whether the suspect could be charged. We make our decision by following the legal test set out in Code for Crown Prosecutors– this means that we first make sure that there’s enough evidence to realistically get a conviction and secondly that it is in the public interest to prosecute. We found that the crime met our legal test, so we authorised the police to charge him with fraud.

“At this stage, we began preparing the prosecution case for trial – as part of this case we argued that it was a hate crime because the offender was motivated to commit the crime due to hostility towards the victim’s disability.

“We demonstrated to the court that he had planned to exploit the victim’s vulnerability from the outset by giving a false name to befriend the victim.

“On the day of the trial, the offender pleaded guilty. We asked the court to increase the sentence because this was a hate crime. The court agreed and gave a higher sentence to reflect the seriousness of the offence.

“The court sentenced him to a community order and a four-month curfew monitored electronically between 7pm and 7am and a 26-week suspended prison sentence - meaning if he reoffends or breaks these conditions the court may send him to prison. He was also made to pay back the money he stole and an additional £620 in costs.”

“I hope that this conviction reassures those with disabilities that we take this type of hate crime seriously and will do everything we can to ensure justice is served.”

Any crime can be prosecuted as a hate crime if there’s evidence that it was committed because of hostility towards a person’s race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity. We prosecute hate crimes with the full force of the law.

Find out more about how we prosecute hate crime.


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