19/07/2011 19:08 BST | Updated 18/09/2011 06:12 BST

Tackling Disability Hate Crime

Every few months in the UK (and in the US and elsewhere, for that matter), there's a shocking news story about a sustained, and often fatal, attack on a disabled person. It's easy to write off such cases as bullying that got out of hand, terrible criminal anomalies or regrettable failures of the care system, but in fact they point to a more uncomfortable and fundamental truth about how our society treats its most unequal citizens. And it's is not just in the poorer areas of Britain that such attitudes exist. The recent mocking in the British lower house, the House of Commons, of Conservative MP Paul Maynard, who has cerebral palsy, suggests how pervasive prejudices against disabled people are.

My book about disability targeted crimes, Scapegoat, was published just a month ago - the first such book to be published in the UK about such crimes. In it I look behind the headlines to trace the history of our discomfort with disabled people, from Greek and Roman culture, through the Industrial Revolution and the origins of Britain's asylum system to the eugenics movement and the Holocaust, the rise of the disability rights movement and the unintended consequences of the move towards community care. I use examples from history with classic investigative journalism, deploying evidence obtained through freedom of information requests, as well as powerful first person interviews with bereaved families, senior investigating officers, prosecutors and disabled victims. I hope that Scapegoat will change the way we think about disability - and how we treat disabled people.

Thus far book reviewers have been very kind to the book, but, more importantly, they have used it to ask all of us difficult questions about disability - i.e. - why are disabled people hated, feared and taunted so often? How do sterotypes about disability feed crimes against disabled people? And what should we do challenge such attitudes?

I hope this book is just the start of a discussion of how disabled people are treated - and help many more of us commit to true equality for disabled people - like any other human beings.