And a leading charity fears many victims are completely unaware that they are protected by the law.
New figures show a 25% increase in disability hate crime but the Changing Faces charity says the numbers hide the extent of the hostility directed at people with disfigurements.
The Equality Act defines a “severe disfigurement’ as a disability, and an offender who targets a victim because of a disfigurement would be committing a hate crime.
One in every 111 people in the UK live with a facial disfigurement, but Changing Faces says that awareness of their legal protection is very low.
Dr James Partridge, head of Changing Faces, which campaigns for people with facial disfigurement, said:
“Figures from the British Crime Survey suggest only 24% of hate crime is reported to police which is worrying enough, but only 3.6% of disability hate crime is reported.
“We applaud the efforts of recent governments to focus attention on hate crime, and treat these offences with the seriousness they deserve.
“However, people with disfigurements experience prejudice and in many cases hate crime on a daily basis, and yet the current recording methods don’t capture this, recording it all under ‘disability’. This give a distorted view of reality.”
“Over the next twelve months we will be conducting detailed research to establish the extent of disfigurement-related hate crime, talking to the many victims who come to us and to the wider community.
“We’d welcome a commitment from government to look into this, as victims are currently being left unheard and vulnerable.”
*Changing Faces: Tel. 0207 391 9270
PICTURED Dr James Partridge