When cripples go crooked
Six disabled people have been arrested, accused of buying expensive cars without paying VAT (as you're allowed to if you're on higher rate mobility DLA and the car is for your sole use) then selling the cars onto dealers at an enormous profit. There's a discussion of the arrests over at the Ouch! Messageboard.
There is a constant flow of stories about disabled victims of crime, a subject previously covered on Ouch by Ian Cook in his article Tackling Crime Against Disabled People. Naturally, some crimes against disabled people - such as when Liz Ball was mugged and had her cane stolen - have far more serious consequences than similar crimes committed against a non-disabled person.
However, very often, the added pathos of a disabled victim will render even the most petty crime newsworthy. Garden gnome stolen from disabled man. Journalists will use the fact of disability to make someone sound extremely vulnerable - tragically confined to a wheelchair, Norman the Gnome was his only friend - and thus make the crime seem all the more terrible.
But it is rather unusual to hear about disabled people committing crime, at least not people with physical or sensory impairments. Unfortunately, it would seem that the more mental health labels - actual or speculative - that you can pile onto a murderers and sex offenders, the better. But the rest of us are unlikely to be much better behaved. Of course, people with chronic illness sometimes get in the news for crimes relating to cannabis, but these portrayals are not exactly unsympathetic. Which brings me round to the possibility that we're simply getting away with it more.
As a teenager, one of the first changes I became conscious of when I began to go shopping in a wheelchair was that there were no longer watchful eyes following me around music and clothes shops; the wheelchair seemed to exonerate me as a potential shoplifter. I suspected that a wheelchair-using teenager could pilfer to their heart's content whilst the shop assistants and security guards were preoccupied with their ambulant peers. You'll be pleased to know I didn't test this theory myself.
Oddly enough - and I really do think it is very odd - there appears to be no official data kept about numbers of disabled people in the prison population. But even if disabled people are generally well-behaved, we are undoubtedly over-represented among your fictional master criminals; I wrote a blog post earlier in the spring assessing my chances of becoming a Bond Villain, for which physical impairment seems the most essential qualification. As I heard one comedian suggest recently, if only Gordon Brown would wear a patch over his "bad" eye, nobody would mess with the United Kingdom.
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