Disability hate crimes soar to ‘record levels’, doubling since 2008 financial crisis

A Freedom of Information request has revealed that the number of disability hate crimes has soared since the 2008 financial crisis, leading to concerns that the “anti-scrounger” rhetoric employed by the Coalition is leading to hostility and aggression against the most vulnerable members of society.

The Independent reports that disability hate crime has doubled since the start of the financial crisis in 2008, yet yespite the rise, the number of people convicted for the crime actually fell last year. A total of 1,942 disability hate crimes were recorded by police forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in 2011 while only 523 people were found guilty of a disability hate crime – down 5 per cent from 2010.

I remember when the rhetoric from both government and the media was very much anti immigration and immigrants and asylum seekers seemed to be blamed for most of the issues that Britain was facing. Now the focus and blame has shifted towards other vulnerable members of society – those on benefits and those with disabilities. “Benefit scroungers”, as well as the welfare state itself, are being blamed for much of the economic crisis and the deficit. This rhetoric has allowed the Coalition to effectively attack and slowly attempt to dismantle sections of the welfare state and the public sector, all the while blaming “scroungers” and the most vulnerable members of society.

“There are historical parallels,” says Katharine Quarmby, the author of Scapegoat: Why We Are Failing Disabled People, who has grown alarmed by the levels of “benefit scrounger” abuse aimed at disabled people. “If you have a group that is blamed for economic downturn, terrible things can happen to them.”

“Iain Duncan Smith [the Work and Pensions Secretary] is saying ‘We’re going to push through these benefit reforms’ and hinting strongly that lots of people on disability benefits are scroungers,” Quarmby says. “That kind of rhetoric leads to disability hate crime on the streets.”

  • Last year the Glasgow Media Trust found the public believed between 50 and 70 per cent of those on disability benefits were fraudulent. The actual number is likely to be between 1 and 2 per cent.
  • The same report found that there has been a tripling in the use of words such as “scrounger”, “cheat” and “skiver” in tabloid stories on disability in the past five years.
Charities are expressing concern at the rise in these reported incidents. Guy Parckar, head of policy and campaigns at Leonard Cheshire Disability, said: “The impact of hate crime simply cannot be overestimated, and these figures suggest that police authorities and local and central government must all look again at what they are doing to tackle disability hate crime.”
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Former government drugs advisor says that alcohol consumption would fall by 25% if Dutch-style “cannabis cafes” were allowed

Cannabis sativa plant

Former government advisor Professor David Nutt has told MPs that alcohol consumption would fall by up to 25% in Britain if Dutch-style cannabis “coffee shops” were introduced, the Guardian reports.

“A regulated market for illicit drugs would be the best way and we could reduce alcohol consumption by as much as 25% if we had the Dutch model of cannabis cafes,” said Nutt, who added that he believed the police would rather deal with people who were ‘stoned’ than drunk.

“The drugs trade is the second biggest international trade in the world, after oil, and it is completely unregulated … It is impossible to win the war on drugs.”

Prof David Nutt is a psychiatrist and  neuropsychopharmacologist who was a former government minister appointed as chairmen of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) in 2008. However, he clashed with MPs due to his views on drug harm and classification. This came to a head in 2009 when Nutt published an editorial in the Journal of Psychopharmacology in which he stated that horse riding held more risk than taking ecstasy. He vocally stated his beliefs that illicit drugs should be classified according to actual evidence of harm rather than as a result of politics.

Prof David Nutt recently gave his views regarding the Dutch-style cannabis cafe model to the Commons home affairs select committee’s inquiry into drugs policy. Both Nutt and Prof Lesley King, a second former government drug advisor, were invited to give evidence. Nutt told the committee that he still stands by his claim that horse-riding is more dangerous than taking ecstasy, and offered his views regarding the introduction of “cannabis cafes”. As the Guardian reports:

“Nutt told MPs the cost of policing cannabis use was only £500m a year, mainly for issuing possession warning notices, compared with the £6bn a year bill for policing the use of alcohol, including dealing with people who were drunk and disorderly.”

Nutt instead of scientific evidence, politics had influenced drug policy in Britain over the 40 years since the Misuse of Drugs Act was passed in 1971. Only one drug – cannabis – had ever been downgraded and that was quickly reversed against the advice of the ACMD.

Nutt said the decision by the home secretary to classify magic mushrooms as a class A drug alongside heroin and crack cocaine was “the final nail in the rationality of the 1971 Drugs Act”.

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