The Learning Disability Alliance Scotland has produced a “Respect Diary” which is a simple system for people with learning disabilities to keep a record of incidents that they are concerned about. Many people hesitate to record small incidents but they can lead on to many. This diary can record these and then be used as evidence to involve authorities in more action later on. This can be downloaded here.
East Kilbride man with learning disabilities left “traumatised”; after knife-point robbery
Created on 2 June 2017
A vulnerable man with learning difficulties has been left “traumatised” after being punched and held at knife-point during an armed robbery in South Lanarkshire.
The 32-year-old man was standing at a bus stop near Calderwood Square, East Kilbride on Friday at around 11pm when he was approached by two men. They then threatened him with a blade, punched him and robbed items from him before making off towards Maxwellton Road.
Emergency services took the victim to Hairmyres Hospital and he was released after treatment.
Detective Constable Stuart Burnside, from Cambuslang CID, said: “These despicable individuals preyed on a vulnerable man who clearly could not stand up for himself and has been left absolutely traumatised by what happened.
“This type of abhorrent behaviour will not be tolerated and extensive inquiries are under way to find these criminals and hold them to account for their cowardly actions. I would appeal to anyone who was in the surrounding area late on Friday night, who may have witnessed the incident or may have seen two men matching the above descriptions, to please get in touch.”
The first man is described as white, in his mid-teens or early 20s, 5ft 6ins and was wearing a white t-shirt and dark-coloured bottoms.
The second is described as white, in his mid-teens or early 20s, slim, 5ft 8ins and was wearing a dark-coloured tracksuit.
Police Scotland have asked anyone with information to contact Cambuslang CID via 101 and quote incident number 5995 of May 26 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
Hate Crime judgement too weak
Created on 7 January 2016
Another shocking story of everyday hate crime against people with learning disabilities in Scotland. Ivor Miller was waiting at a Glasgow street corner when a pack of hate filled young men and women started to taunt and punch him. A chase began which ended with Mr Miller falling out of a 2nd floor window. This dedicated hunt left Mr Miller in fear of his life and the gang waiting outside pubs he was hiding in until they could start the chase. On Tuesday, despite the judge calling the gang a “pack of animals” only one was sentenced to a custodial sentence, 3 others were give 150 hours community service and a fifth had their sentence deferred.
What led to Mr Millier sustaining serious fractures of his legs and back was an admitted catalogue of violence and abuse. However since only Mr Miller and his assailants were present in the 2nd floor flat where he had sought to hide and Mr Miller couldn’t remember exactly what happened, the prosecution refused to press serious charges against his attackers. This case shows how the law lets down people with learning disabilities – where they cannot remember exactly what happened or are too scared to talk, then their attackers get away with lighter sentences.
However this case demonstrates another aspect that worries many people with learning disability. Mr Miller ran into 2 pubs to seek help and sanctuary. He got it in neither. In the 2nd pub, the Hootenanny, a barmaid threw him out of the pub into the hands of his pursuers even after he pleaded for her help. This case clearly demonstrates the need for “Keep Safe” places, a campaign being run by the I Am Me project to get more public spaces to know what to do when people with learning disabilities come into them seeking help and safety.
Just Another Day – Experiences of Disability Hate Crime
Created on 12 August 2015
Sue Graham is 42 years old and has a learning disability. At the start of June, she was crossing a bridge in a quiet part of Edinburgh on her way to catch a bus. 3 young boys, probably not older than 12, approached her from the other side of the bridge, they stopped in front of her and called her an offensive name. Sue didn’t know what to do. She said afterwards “I could have run away but they would have caught me. I just stood there.”
The older boy asked her for money. “After a minute, I just gave them everything I had and they went away,” Sue told us afterwards. She was distressed and had to walk 2 miles to the meeting – her bus fares were part of what was stolen.
Disability Hate Crimes are common for people with learning disabilities. So common that they are rarely reported and even less is done about them. Sue never reported her incident. “It wasn’t much money”, she said.
The middle of August sees the start of Police Scotland’s Tackling Hate Crime Awareness month. Each week will feature a different type of Hate Crime, starting with disability, then moving on to gender, race and sexual orientation. Police Scotland want to take this seriously and so they should! Figures published earlier this year show a 270% increase in the reporting of disability hate crime in the last year alone.
Disability hate crime has unfortunately been with us for a long time. The EHRC report, Hidden In Sight reports that in 2007, Laura Milne, a young woman with learning disabilities living in Aberdeen was murdered by 3 people. She was repeatedly slashed across the throat with a kitchen knife. One of her three attackers, Debbie Buchan had bullied her in school and then joined in another attack on Laura with a golf club. It is likely there were many more unrecorded incidents of bullying that Laura had to endure before her death but no one ever reported them.
Earlier this year, Katharine Quaramby, author of “Scapegoat, Why We Are Failing Disabled People” carried out a small survey of people who had been the subject of hate crime attacks. She found that a sizeable number were linked to accusations of the victims being scroungers or faking to get extra benefits. It may be that the focus on “benefit scroungers” in the media and by some politicians has contributed to the rise. Her study is too small to have many answers but it does indicate that we need to understand the motivation of why disability hate crimes are carried out so we can deal with it better.
The Learning Disability Alliance Scotland is working alongside other voluntary organisations and Police Scotland to find new ways of tackling disability hate crimes. These include Keep Safe spaces – shops and offices – where people feeling threatened on the street can go in to for shelter and training for Police call centres to improve their work with disabled people.
And we are also launching this week our new wristband – “Disability Hate Crime – See It, Report It – Call 101.” Available in yellow and black, they are free to all our member organisations.
We think it really important that more people call 101 to report these incidents. That’s what Sue should have done. No one thought when Laura was first bullied by Debbie Buchan that it would end only a few years later with Buchan joining in her killing. Reporting even the smallest disability hate crime is the first step to making sure this kind of attack never happens again.
Disability Hate Crime Rises Sharply by 270%
Created on 3 August 2015
Hate crimes against the disabled have more than tripled in five years and prosecutors have warned the rise could be the tip of the iceberg. Reports of aggravation of prejudice relating to disability have risen by 270% from 48 in 2010/11 to 177 last year, official figures from the Crown Office have revealed. There was a 20% increase since 2013/14 alone.
The report states: “There is a broad consensus that this type of crime continues to be under reported compared to other forms of hate crime. Both Police Scotland and COPFS (Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service) are engaged in a variety of activities aimed at increasing the level of awareness, especially amongst disability communities, that hate crime is unacceptable and should not be tolerated.”
The number of charges reported in all hate crime categories with the exception of disability fell in 2014/15 compared to the previous year. Racial crime remains the most commonly reported hate crime, with 3,785 charges reported in 2014/15, but this is the lowest number reported since 2003/04.
If you want to know where to report Disability Hate Crime, check out our map of 3rd Party Reporting Centres or call 101..
Council and special school threatened with legal action over use of ‘calm room’
Created on 20 August 2014
A local authority and a community special school are facing legal action on behalf of two autistic pupils over the use of a ‘calm room’ to manage their behaviours.
Law firm Leigh Day, which is acting for the claimants, said the pupils were allegedly ‘detained’ in the room at Abbey Hill School in Stoke on Trent for “for prolonged periods, where they defecated and urinated and showed other signs of considerable stress and anxiety”.
The claimants are now at alternative specialist autism centres.
In a letter to the school, Leigh Day claimed the two pupils had been “subjected to inhumane and degrading treatment and that the use of the ‘calm room’ for extended periods, without appropriate safeguards in place, was an unlawful act as it deprived pupils of their liberty”.
Merry Varney, a lawyer in the human rights team at Leigh Day said: “Although the use of seclusion and ‘calm rooms’ are recognised, positive tools to use to assist autistic children, these must be used appropriately with effective safeguards in place to prevent inappropriate use.
“Our clients appear to have been placed regularly in a very small room, with little natural light, sparse furniture, and no ability to leave, for an hour or more at a time. Rather than having any calming effect, the periods of seclusion led to significantly increased distress and deterioration in our clients’ behaviour.”
Varney added that the parents had not been informed at the time of the extent of the use of ‘calm room’.
Stoke have been approached for comment. A spokesman for Stoke said: “The allegations concern the use of the quiet room at the school and only relate to two pupils who left the school in 2012. The quiet room has not been used for more than 12 months. This matter is now the subject of legal discussions and it is not appropriate to comment further.”
Congratulations to the Us and Housing Group
Created on 08 July 2014
One of LDAS’s members has won a very important award for their work on harassment and bullying. There were winners of the 2014 Frances Nelson MBE Awards in Tayside.
Us and Housing are a group of people with learning disabilities who came together in June 2011 at a conference to discuss housing issues. The conference showed that people suffered daily discrimination which led to group to work with Perth & Kinross Council to produce an educational DVD and learning resources to challenge injustice and inequality. The DVD titled ‘It Goes On and On and On’ is a series of short dramas that explore and expose the discrimination faced by people with learning disabilities. A clip from the DVD can be viewed on the TIS website at www.tis.org.uk.
Abuse and Illegal restraint in Dundee school
Created on 27 May 2014
Kingspark School in Dundee opened in 2009 but very quickly concerns emerged. By 2013, there were 20% more pupils in the school that had been planned. By 2014, it was nearly 140% more – 175 instead of 125.
In 2010 a new electronic recording system encouraged school staff to see themselves as the victims of attacks by school pupils even where there was no malicious intent such as a child having an epileptic fit whose involuntary hand movements touched a member of staff.
Meanwhile allegations were being made that a small but significant number of children were being illegally restrained or subject to physical abuse.
One 12 year old child was restrained on the ground by four teaching and support staff. Bruising and blood spots on his chest indicated that he had been held face down in what is an illegal hold. The incident was repeated on two subsequent days. His mother said “Four teachers held my small epileptic child on the floor till he passed our and urinated. Then they let him go!”
Another child who used a wheelchair in school for only extended walks had 12 additional arm, chest and leg restraints added to the chair without his mother’s knowledge. He informed his mother that this was for when he was “naughty”. On one occasion he was strapped in the chair and left outside in the rain. No explanation was given to his mother apart from a sorry for him being wet.
Another younger, non- verbal girl came home with finger print bruises on her upper arms and refused to go back to school until she was put in a different class. Her mother said “My little girl couldn’t tell me why she had so many bruises on her body when she came home. She is 8 years old and cannot speak. Now she cries when she has to go to school.”
Another mother reported, “The bus escort was horrified at how the carer spoke to my severely disabled daughter and the school had no explanation for that scratch on her face.”
These incidents happened regularly. Complaints to the school were brushed off or referred on to social workers for home investigation as “problem parents”. Complaints not made through the council’s website were not counted as complaints. Police investigators took the word of senior staff that there had been nothing illegal and didn’t interview any of the staff involved.
LDAS met with a small group of parents last year to support them in raising the issues. Since then the families have kept meeting to support each other and to continue to press the council. They have sought advice from professionals and tried to raise it with Scottish Govt. ministers.
The council has tried to keep this matter very much in house commissioning an internal inquiry, by education consultant Alistair Marquis, The review was not allowed to look at what happened to the children, only what the council had done about the allegations. As a result the review failed to speak to most of the affected families.
The story was broken in late April by the Sun on Sunday. Since then more families have come forward to allege their children have also been affected – that bruises were unexplained – that complaints have been ignored or brushed off.
- – On the 6th of May, the two Depute Heads at the School announced their retirement. No reason was given.
- – On the 8th of May, the Marquis Report found that much needed to change in the school. Physical restraint was to be used only as a last resort. The minimum number of staff should be used for restraint. Accurate records should be kept of how long children are shut away in the “safe space.” Child protection training for staff needed to be reviewed. Senior leaders in the school need to hold other staff to account for their actions.
- – On the 16th of May, police reopened investigations into the worst of the incidents.
But this is not just a local story and we think that other things need to be done.
- Schools staff were trained in CALM, a behaviour management system. But training focused too much on physical restraint and not enough in calming down the situation. Councils need to make sure that such methods are properly used and enough follow up training given.
- There needs to be more independent inspection of schools. The Mental Welfare Commission asked to investigate but the school refused. HMIE has not inspected since 2009. The current level of inspection has failed to pick up the problems and a wider system is needed.
- There needs to be national guidance on the use of restraint and seclusion in Scottish schools. It exists for residential care but local authorities are left to make their own school policies. The Scottish Government or Education Scotland need to produce such a policy.
Our New Third Party Reporting Centre map
Created on 5 March 2014
Hate Crime—Still A Problem
LDAS is taking part in a working group along with Police Scotland a number of other voluntary organisations and users groups that looks at Hate Crime against people with learning disabilities.
Some useful initiatives include the Safe Places system which signs up local shops to provide a place for people being bullied to go and wait safely till the threat has passed.
Others include new training and response information for Police Officers on the beat designed by Cornerstone.
3rd party reporting is another initiative that has been going for some time. While Police Scotland have taken big steps to become more approachable, some people are still wary about going to them directly. They worry that they might not be able to explain themselves and may get into trouble over other matters. Voluntary organisations and other services offer help to people from different minority groups to tell their story to a sympathetic ear and then to inform the police in a safe and secure way.
Radio Call Out To Report Hate Crime
Created on 12 February 2014
Keith Lynch from People First Scotland will be the star of a short radio announcement about Hate Crime in Scotland that will play across the country in early March.
Radio Clyde, Radio Forth, North Sound and ten other radio stations will regularly play the short piece from the 3rd of March for a week. Keith will be talking about his and his wife’s experience with Hate Crime on an Edinburgh housing estate. He will urge everyone to take this seriously and to report such crimes to the police. There should be no excuses for making people’s lives a misery.
The announcement will also feature contributions from Police Scotland and Stonewall, the campaigning Charity for gays and lesbians.
Living in Fear
Created on 14 August 2013
A survey by Mencap of people with a learning disability has found that nearly nine out of ten respondents have experienced bullying in the last year. Two-thirds are bullied on a regular basis and almost one-third are suffering from bullying on a daily or weekly basis. People with a learning disability face prejudice and widespread discrimination that often makes them feel like outcasts and prevents them from taking a full part in society.
Public attitudes in the United Kingdom towards people with a learning disability remain discriminatory. The Mencap survey suggests that the bullying of people with a learning disability is institutionalised throughout society.
Nearly nine out of ten people (88%) with a learning disability reported being bullied within the last year. Living In Fear demonstrates that people with a learning disability are targeted as they form a vulnerable section of society. As a direct consequence of their disability they experience intolerable levels of discrimination in the form of bullying. The bullying of people with a learning disability is also distinguished by the regular and ongoing nature of the act. People with a learning disability are often lifelong victims. Two-thirds of people (66%) said that they had been bullied regularly (more than once a month) with 32% stating that bullying was taking place on a daily or weekly basis. For almost a third of respondents most days bring another encounter with bullying. Simple activities such as leaving the house walking to work or catching a bus to the shops are often upsetting and distressing experiences. Often bullying is carried out so frequently that the victim is able to identify the perpetrator. The effect of regular bullying can be devastating. Being called a name may appear trivial in itself but it can assume a greater significance when it happens all the time to the same person. Such intimidation constantly impinges on the daily lives of people with a learning disability. It reinforces negative feelings of being isolated and different.
“I get called stupid and teased all the time. Children follow me every day and call me names, threaten to kill me in the street and at the centre.”
Female 40 Glasgow
“I face bullying all the time. People at the day centre call me names and threaten me the bus driver told me to get off the bus. Sometimes when I’m out people laugh at me because of my disability and shop keepers are rude if they can’t understand me or if I take time sorting out my money.”
Female 48 London
“On my way home I have to pass by the youth centre and am called names by young people. This happens everyday from Monday to Friday and gets worse in the school holidays as they’re around all day and all night.”
Male 32 Manchester
It goes on and on
25 June 2013
The Housing and Us Group, supported by Perth Independent Advocacy have now released their new DVD on bullying and harassment. There are instructions (educational resources) for how best to use this available.
There is one for staff training, one for community groups and organisations, and the one for secondary schools will be ready to go for the new term in September. Not only is there a hard copy but it can be accessed on line at: www.pkc.gov.uk/itgoeson .
It has been worth the wait and we urge you to look at and use this resource.
Does the new law on harassment work?
Created on 23 June 2013
Last year new legislation was passed which made it possible for those who attack people with learning disabilities to be treated more seriously. However the failure of the police or the Procurator Fiscal\’s office to use this legislation makes us wonder if it is any more than just window dressing.
BBC Scotland reports that \”Two teenage girls carried out a prolonged \”degrading\” assault on a vulnerable young man, Arbroath Sheriff Court has heard. Paige Sharp, 16, and Danielle Sinclair, 17, admitted assaulting the 21-year-old man, who suffered from learning difficulties.\” Read the story here.
The intensity, nature and duration of their attack indicates that the girls knew they were attacking someone with learning disabilities and took advantage of this. Yet they have not been charged under the new law and will get lighter sentences as a result.
The question we are asking is has anyone at all been charged under the new legislation?