• Published1 day ago

A charity has teamed up with Somerset County Council to raise awareness about disability hate crime.

OpenStoryTellers, based in Frome, has created a series of videos about it after researchers found victims often failed to recognise it was a crime.

It said people with disabilities were also vulnerable to “mate crime” when victims are befriended by someone who later exploits or manipulates them.

The videos are available to view on the council’s website.

Avon and Somerset Police recorded 473 disability hate crimes between April 2021 and March, but it said the true figure could be considerably higher, because of underreporting issues.

Charlotte Woodall, from OpenStoryTellers, told BBC Radio Somerset: “Some of our members didn’t really know very much about hate crime and disability hate crime and actually we did a lot of research with our members to find out what people did know.”

‘Nothing will happen’

The charity said it hoped the campaign would empower people with disabilities, whether that was a physical or a learning disability, to understand hate crime.

“Quite often people are targeted and they are victims and they don’t do anything about it – possibly because they’re scared, possibly because they think ‘well nothing is going to happen anyway’, or possibly because they don’t recognise it is an actual crime,” she said.

Ben Harris, from Frome, who has both hearing and sight loss, described an incident where someone had thrown a drink at him from a moving car.

He said it had not occurred to him at the time to report it, adding: “I was able to brush it off, but it did make me angry”.

Ali Gunn, from the south London-based charity United Response, which supports people with learning difficulties, said: “The experience of ‘is this a hate crime?’ is something that we hear quite often.”

There was a 41% rise in recorded hate crimes between 2021 and 2022 in England and Wales according to figures released earlier this month.

Ms Gunn said: “Either reporting procedures have got better, people are more aware of how and when to report a hate crime or it indicates that hate crime is on the rise, but either way it does indicate there is a problem there that needs addressing.”

This report was based on interviews carried out by Carrian Jones for BBC Radio Somerset



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