Online hate crimes against disabled people in Suffolk rise
The number of online disability hate crimes have dramatically increased in Suffolk, it has been revealed.
Suffolk and Norfolk recorded the highest levels of online hate crimes targeting disabled people across England and Wales, with 43 incidents recorded between both forces in 2017/18.
In Suffolk the number increased from two in 2016/17 to 23 in 2017/18, according to information gathered by health charity Leonard Cheshire.
The charity said the increase could be due to increasing confidence of victims to report crimes to police but warns the number of crimes reported could be just the tip of the iceberg.
Kultar Nayyar, spokesman for Norfolk and Suffolk Victim Care, said: "Hate crime is an attack on a person because of a part of their identity and can have a particularly devastating impact as it's a very personal attack.
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"Online attacks can be distressing as it can feel like there's no escape.
"Some people can be quite isolated within their homes due to their disability and having to come off social media and messaging sites due to abuse they are receiving would be cutting off a really important connection to their friends and family.
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"We know that hate crime is hugely under reported and part of this is due to a misconception that some cases are 'too trivial' to report."
Neil Heslop, chief executive of Leonard Cheshire, said: "These offences can have a devastating impact on the lives of survivors.
"We know from our work with disabled people that hate crime causes long-term fear, anxiety and in some cases isolation."
Inspector Becky Kidd-Stanton, from Suffolk police, said she wanted more victims to feel confident coming forward and reporting hate crimes to police.
She said: "Suffolk Constabulary takes every report of hate crime very seriously and investigates incidents thoroughly.
"Hate crime is unacceptable in today's society and can have a devastating and often life-changing impact on the victim.
"We work hard to raise awareness of what a hate crime is, meaning we now receive more reports.
"We want victims to be confident in coming forward, and we work with partners and disability support groups to further raise awareness of hate crime and encourage reporting.
"In partnership with Suffolk County Council, a hate crime working group was set up in Suffolk in 2018.
"Supported by our diverse communities co-ordinators further awareness training has been rolled out alongside outreach work with those directly affected by hate crime.
"Hate crime scrutiny panels have also been established to ensure we continually review investigations and raise awareness amongst staff and the community to encourage reporting of hate crime and provide the appropriate support to people affected by this."
For more information on Norfolk and Suffolk Victim Care visit www.nsvictimcare.org or call 0300 303 3706.
The organisation provides free and confidential support even if an incident has not been reported to police.
To report a hate crime to police online, see here.