The term ‘disablist hate crime’ is contested; it is used as shorthand for myriad manifestations of hostility, violent attacks, including physical and sexual assault, rape, theft, murder, captivity and damage to property (Thomas, 2011). A common understanding of the term ‘hate crime’ is hostile actions against individuals with certain characteristics. The actions can involve opportunistic street crime, physical assault and damage to residences, including arson. The perpetrators do not usually have a relationship with their victims, but may be known to live within the same neighbourhood. They are generally considered to be motivated by hatred of a perceived group. There are similarities between these types of targeted attacks against disabled people and people in other identity groups, such as BME communities, lesbians and gay men, and transgender people (Macdonald, 2008). ‘Hate crime’ is officially recognised (Crown Prosecution Service, 2007). Earlier critical analysis of ‘hate crime’ has been developed from knowledgeof racist ‘hate crime’, forming a useful basis from which to develop, but the use of a ‘race model’ as the template for disablist hate crime policy is seen by some as misplaced (Roulstone, Thomas and Balderston, 2011). For example, a racist attack on an individual may be, or may be taken to be, an attack on a community, and where that community has the capacity there may be reprisals and events can escalate. This is not the case with disablist hostility, since disabled people are often isolated, not part of a community, and possibly even isolated from their own families. Iganski’s (2008) study highlighted the opportunistic nature of most racist ‘hate crime’, everyday conflicts aggravated by racist hostility, often committed by ordinary people going about their ordinary business. The person who is attacked may recognise their attackers as being local. There does not seem to be any attempt to feign friendship in order to carry out this type of attack, nor to steal cash or goods. In comparison there are few recorded incidents of this kind against disabled people. However, there is a growing body of evidence, and growing media interest raising the profile of disablist hostility. There are reports of disabled people being subjected to opportunistic hostility, and of disabled people being singled out and victimisedGrattet and Jenness (2001) question the usefulness of a concept of crime whichis motivated by perceived difference. They question the benefits of emphasising what could be seen as a ‘special needs’ approach, since this reinforces, rather than alleviates, cultural differences between individuals in different social and administrative groups. But they also realise that treating people as if they are all the same does not challenge stereotypes and does not equalise people’s situation, creating a ‘dilemma of difference’. Reducing the issue to an individual level does not convey the influences of cultures, which allow and perpetuate the oppression of certain groups. Acts of hostility against disabled people on the street or in neighbourhoods, bullying and harassment – such as name calling, throwing missiles at individuals, or at their homes, indicate similarities with incidents which are recognised as ‘hate crime’ against other groups. These acts of hostility against a disabled person may not amount to crime, but nevertheless hurt psychologically and emotionally. A disabled person who has been attacked knows that they are more likely to be targeted again than a person without that characteristic (Macdonald, 2008); the cumulative effect is demonstrated in the case of Fiona Pilkington.

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