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Sunday, 20 July 2014 00:00

Justice system ill equipped to meet the needs of people with disabilities

People with disabilities are being routinely denied the basic human right of access to justice because police and other parts of our criminal justice system are ill equipped to meet their needs.

In a new report launched on Monday July 21st, Beyond Doubt – the experiences of people with disabilities reporting crime, the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission has found that people with disabilities face significant and complex barriers when reporting crime to police. As a result, crimes go unreported.

Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner Kate Jenkins called for urgent work to be done to ensure that people with disabilities have equitable access to justice and safety.

Beyond Doubt makes 16 recommendations, including five recommendations for Victoria Police to better respond to the needs of people with disabilities.

“Access to justice for people with disabilities should not be a matter of luck. It is a basic right for everyone,” Ms Jenkins said.

Beyond Doubt has found that when it comes to people with disability trying to report crimes committed against them, Victoria Police are falling short.

But that can change. Just as they have done around family violence and sexual assault, Victoria Police needs to implement a specialist response for a distinct cohort with distinct needs. To do this well requires specific police training, cultural change and coordination centred on delivering a responsive service to people with disabilities.

“It is of great concern that the majority of these crimes go unreported, often because the police who largely want to do the right thing, lack the skills needed to identify disability and make reasonable adjustments. Others did not know where to source assistance,” Ms Jenkins said.

One case study in the report tells the story of a blind, quadriplegic woman who was pulled from her wheelchair and threatened. She then encountered difficulties in convincing the police that a crime had occurred.

Another case study in Beyond Doubt tells of a person with a disability being made to feel like she was “complaining that her fish and chips were cold” when she was trying to report a crime, and was told by the police officer that no one would be interested.

People with disabilities may be more likely to experience violent and sexual crime than other people. Some people are at greater risk, including people with intellectual and mental health disabilities, communication disabilities and women with disabilities.

Beyond Doubt found that barriers people with disabilities face include negative assumptions and attitudes, a lack of support and minimal provision of necessary adjustments.

A key finding of the report is that staff who abuse people with disabilities are able to move to from service to service.

In the report, the Commission recommends that the Victorian Government introduce a registration system for unsuitable persons that prohibits people who have been found to have abused, assaulted or neglected a person with a disability from working or volunteering in services for people with disability.

Beyond Doubt also reveals that people with disabilities do not report crimes when they occur because they fear that the will not be believed or will be seen as lacking credibility.

“People with disabilities reporting crime must be able to access consistent support – when they need it and for as long as they need it, at every stage of their journey through the criminal justice system,” Ms Jenkins said.

MEDIA LAUNCH DETAILS

Beyond Doubt will be launched at 11.00am–12.30pm, Monday 21 July 2014

ZINC at Federation Square, Birrarung Marr, Swanston Street, Melbourne CBD

Spokespeople available for interview are:

Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner Kate Jenkins

Victorian Police Chief Commissioner Ken Lay

VEOHRC media contact: Anna Craig
Phone: (03) 9032 3482 | Mobile: 0459 114 657 | Email: [email protected]

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