FImage: People Not Punchlines campaignrankie Boyle’s controversial humour has sparked a campaign to make hate speech against people with learning disabilities illegal under UK law.

Nicola Clark started the ‘People Not Punchlines’ campaign during Learning Disability week after seeing such hate speech becoming normal in society and on national television.

The campaign aims to tackle the shocking Mencap estimation that nine out of ten people with learning disabilities are verbally abused or exposed to violence because of their disability.

David Congdon, Head of Campaigns and Policy at Mencap, said:

“We believe the ignorant use of offensive language and harassment and bullying of people with a learning disability is all too common.”

Currently the law states that it is illegal to communicate in a manner which is threatening, abusive or insulting and intended to harass, alarm or distress. However, this protection is only specific to: colour, race, nationality, ethnic or national origin, religion or sexual orientation.

Professor Ian Rivers from Brunel University conducted a survey of 185 children who had bullied others. He found that:

“Children with Special Educational Needs and Emotional Behavioural Difficulties are often the target of bullying and ridicule.”

Nicola is concerned that this behaviour has expanded from the playground to television.

“Frankie Boyle finds it acceptable to use disabled people as the source material for his jokes and we as a society allow these comments to pass unchecked.”

There have been some high profile cases of deaths following such abuse that highlight serious negligence from the authorities involved. Concerns were raised that many police forces mark disability motivated hate crimes as low priority. After 10 years of abuse from a gang of youths Fiona Pilkington, 38, killed both herself and her severely mentally disabled daughter in October 2007.

In March 2010 David Askew, a 64 year old with the mental age of 10, had a heart attack and died minutes after CCTV cameras recorded two teenagers approaching his home in Greater Manchester. He had also been repeatedly abused because of his disability.

Nicola Clark’s ‘People Not Punchlines’ campaign is fighting to, “amend existing hate speech law and ensure that disabled people are rightfully included in this vital legislation.”

The Association for Real Change is a membership organisation that supports and trains organisations that provide support and services to people with learning disabilities. They encourage; promotion of choice, rights, independence, privacy, dignity and fulfilment.