Ipswich/Suffolk: Shock rise in reports of hate crime against disabled people in Suffolk

SHOCK new figures have today revealed an alarming rise in reports of hate crimes against disabled people in the county.

Figures revealed in a Freedom of Information request by the Ipswich Star show that last year there were 165 reports of disablist hate crimes to Suffolk police – a jump of nearly 20 per cent from 138 in 2009/10. So far this year there have been 118 reports.

The reports include 12 instances of people with learning difficulties being assaulted and 19 cases of people with physical disabilities becoming victims of harassment.

Bosses at Ipswich-based disability charity Optua said the rise shows disabled people have more confidence now to report the crimes.

James Powell, a spokesman for the charity, said: “Encouraging people to report hate crime is the first step in tackling it and it is often the case that when there is a concerted effort to increase reporting, it appears as though there is a worrying increase in the crime itself.

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“The fact that there are this many cases is of course still a very serious issue which many organisations in the county are working hard to address and there is a positive and strong approach to the issue in Suffolk which we are proud to be part of.”

Colin Spence, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for public protection, added: “This increase from last year shows that more people are taking the often difficult step to tell someone about the fact that they are a victim of this malicious crime. We have worked hard with our partners to enable people to do this in the confidence that we will be able to help them and respect their personal circumstances.”

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In 2011, people living with physical and learning difficulties reported the most hate crimes to Suffolk police, with 120 crimes. The trend has continued this year with 89 reports coming from those groups.

A spokesman for the charity Scope expressed concerns about people’s attitudes towards disabled people, adding: “This increase in recorded disability hate crime is alarming.

“Scope polling has shown that attitudes towards disabled people have deteriorated over recent years and that many disabled people experience harassment, hostility and abuse on a regular basis. We know if unchallenged these low level incidents can often escalate into more serious crimes.”

The statistics also include ‘non crimes’ which are recorded by police but are not designated as a criminal offence.

Deborah Charles, team supervisor at the Suffolk hate Crime Service, said non crimes could include incidents such as name calling.

“It might be a Facebook comment that’s degrading but has not actually broken any law,” she said. “It is happening everywhere else in the world but people in Suffolk feel confident to come forward and tell us this is happening.”

n Have you been a victim of disablist hate crime? Write to Your Letters, Ipswich Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or send an e-mail to starletters@archant.co.uk

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