Academic team: Zhraa Alhabody, Elena Martellozzo, Arun Sondhi
Policing partners: Police Scotland
Discrimination against disabled people is a disturbing phenomenon that is documented since ancient history. The use of electronic communication has further reshaped this phenomenon to result in cyber-victimisation experiences, with multi-level impacts on physical health, mental wellbeing, social relationships and economic circumstances. Such experiences also influence support-seeking behaviour and trust in instrumental support, such as healthcare professionals and the Police. The COVID-19 pandemic had redefined our norms and raised concerns among Human Rights organisations over the escalation of discrimination against disabled people. Subsequently, disability hate crime statistics have increased across the UK. Scotland recorded the highest number of disability hate charges reported since the legislation came into force in 2010, the increase in disability hate statistics was by 14% (Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, 2021). These numbers do not represent the full picture, and online disability hate incidents remain under-reported to the Police. The increased use of online communication during the pandemic has influenced these risks, in addition to public fear.
This project aims to explore the influence of COVID-19 on the cyber-victimisation of disabled people in Scotland and utilise findings to inform policy and practice. The project employs a mixed-method research design using an online survey followed by in-depth interviews with disabled persons who experienced cyber-victimisation during the pandemic in Scotland. Civil society partners such disability support organisations in Scotland are involved throughout the research process to bridge the gap between theory and practice. The research also includes in-depth interviews with personnel from Police Scotland, to contextualise the cyber-victimisation and disability-hate experiences, and identify ways to improve practice.