Protecting vulnerable people at risk of violence

Crime scene

Every day, all across Britain, people are experiencing targeted violence and harassment simply because of who they are. Disabled people, children both in and out of care, women, lesbian, gay and bisexual people, transgender people and many others are subject to degrading treatment, harassment and violence and may live their lives in fear. To protect these vulnerable groups and ensure that they have the right to live freely and safe from harm, we must ensure that the protections in the Human Rights Act are correctly applied and integrated into every stage of the criminal justice system and all other relevant public services. It must be integrated from the first moment of fear through to the prosecutions process and towards the prevention of targeted violence.

For example:

  • 3 million women in Britain experience rape, domestic violence, stalking or other violence each year, but 25% local authority areas provide no specialised support services in their area for women who experience violence¹.
  • 19% of disabled adults in England and Wales were victims of crime over the last 12 months². Over Britain, this suggests that 1.9million disabled adults were victims of crime in the last year³.
  • In 2010, 47,229 hate crimes were reported to the police, and 11% of lesbian, gay, bisexual people who reported crime had experienced threat of violence, compared to 4% of heterosexual people4.
  • At the end of March 2010, there were 35,700 children who were the subject of a child protection plan; as many as 47% of young people in England reported being bullied at the age of 145.

But despite the extent and impact of the violence and harassment that many people across Britain are suffering, it is clear that many public authorities are not taking action:

  • Although most public authorities reported that they needed to help people report targeted violence, nearly a fifth did not think that they had a role to play in preventing it6.
  • 15% of 213 public authorities (including police forces, councils and social landlords) did not recognise that they had a role to play in helping victims of targeted violence7.
  • The Commissioner for Victims and witnesses found that, despite well intentioned initiatives, the service for victims was simply not good enough, and varied considerably with inconsistency in the delivery and help for victims and witnesses8.
  • With respect to families bereaved by homicide the Commissioner for Victims found that the current code of practice for victims of crime does not meet the legitimate expectations of a family that they will have some proper acknowledgement in the legal process9.
  • Victims Support found a widespread failure to meet the requirements of the code of practice, a lack of information and support to victims, leading to distress and a lack of confidence in the system by victims10.

However, despite these gaps, there is no single legally enforceable regime for the protection of vulnerable people in the UK. It is essential that these gaps are filled to ensure that those most likely to suffer violence and harassment in our society are given the protection and support they require.

Recognising the importance of this issue in protecting equality, human rights and good relations, the Commission has prioritised understanding and closing the gaps in protection for vulnerable groups through its inquiries and research. 

Find out more:


  1. Map of Gaps 2; Coy, Kelly and Ford, Equality and Human Rights Commission.
  2. Unpublished analysis of the British Crime Survey 2009/10, provided by the Home Office Crime Surveys Programme and reproduced with permission.
  3. ODI, Disability prevalence estimates 2008/09. Accessed 2 August 2011.
  4. Press release: Commission publishes research on targeted crime
  5. Public authority commitment and action to eliminate targeted harassment and violence (EHRC research report 74, p 17)
  6. Press release: Commission publishes research on targeted crime 
  7. Public authority commitment and action to eliminate targeted harassment and violence by Neil Chakraborti (University of Leicester); David Gadd (Keele University); Paul Gray, Sam Wright & Marian Duggan (ARCS (UK) Ltd)
  8. Commissioner for Victims and Witnesses : the poor relation, victims in the criminal justice system July 2010
  9. Review into the needs of families bereaved by homicide, Victims Commissioner July 2011
  10. Victim Support : left in the dark July 2011


Last Updated: 23 Oct 2014