West Yorkshire has been revealed as the worst place for disability hate crime offences in the county, new figures released today show.
There were a total of 818 disability hate crimes recorded in West Yorkshire during 2018/19 - the highest in England and Wales. statistics obtained by charity United Response show.
This is a rise of 53 per cent from the previous 12 months and an even bigger increase of 156 per cent on the 319 crimes recorded in 2016/17.
Almost half (395) of last year’s crimes were classified as ‘violence against the person’ - more than any other single type of crime in the area and up considerably from the year before.
These crimes include assault, harassment, stalking and malicious communications towards a victim.
South Yorkshire Police recorded a total of 237 disability crimes up from 118 offences in the previous 12 months, followed by Humberside Police with 156 crimes recorded which is a fall from 158 in 2017/18, and North Yorkshire with 45 offences - a rise from 26 the previous year.
Learning disability charity United Response’s national investigation comes ahead of National Disability Hate Crime Awareness Week, which starts on Saturday.
United Response hate crime coordinator Joanne Silkestone said: “Just as last year, these figures are deeply worrying. The hard facts are that more and more people with learning disabilities or autism are being subjected to criminal harm and seemingly a smaller proportion of those responsible are being given the punishment they deserve."
The figures come as the mother of a vulnerable young woman who was terrorised by a gang as she walked home alone in Leeds has admitted she is frustrated at what is being done to tackle disability hate crimes. Karen Horton's 23-year-old daughter Amy Williamson, who has learning disabilities, was accosted by a group of 20 teenage boys on bikes as she walked home from an activity club in Swarcliffe back in June.
Four months on she is still shaken and her confidence has been shattered meaning she will no longer go out alone on an evening, while her mother now picks her up and drops her off at her local bus stop.
Miss Horton, 47, said: "I just don't know what the answer is to tackle this to be honest.
"There are so many different types of disability hate crimes it's hard to know where to start.
"Through the various groups Amy goes to we know that there are many other victims as well. Some have been exploited for money and others have been targeted on social media. It is such a big issue.
"I am angry and I feel helpless as I feel there is nothing I can do to stop this happening.
"It makes me angry that crimes like this are still happening in this day and age."
"Amy won't go out alone now, especially on an evening and at the time the attack happened.
"I am now escorting her to and from the bus stop and it has impacted her hugely.
"It has been terrifying for her and she has been having nightmares."
Leep1, an organisation supporting adults with learning disabilities, described the latest statistics as "appalling".
Project manager Mandy Haigh said: "We need to make a stand and not only raise awareness of these horrific crimes but to continue to educate within schools how these crimes can affect people’s mental health and knock their confidence. People with learning disabilities have as much right as any other person in society and people need to accept that everyone has different abilities but we all are the same underneath.
"This will only work if our communities come together to say no to these crimes and report them so that everyone can feel safe."
West Yorkshire Police, Superintendent Richard Close said: “West Yorkshire is home to a diverse population, with people from all faiths, backgrounds and disabilities. Residents should be free to live their lives without fear, hatred or intolerance and there is no excuse for such behaviour. We are committed to ensuring that the most vulnerable are safe and feel reassured.
“Albeit, any increase of crime is a concern, it also represents confidence in our reporting systems and supports the fact that we have continued to raise awareness through ongoing publicity campaigns and engagement.
“An element of the rise can be attributed to our high standards in crime recording, we are one of only four forces to be classed as ‘Outstanding’ for crime data integrity, which has led to an increase in all crime types, as our ambition is to be truly victim focused.
“We work closely with Hate Incident Reporting Centres for third party or anonymous reports, encouraging more people to come forward so we understand the impact and true picture within the county.
“After a significant increase over the last four years, In the year 2018/19, we recorded around two hate incidents per day associated with a disability and this position has stabilised during 2019.
“We are now focusing more on outcomes to ensure that those people who are a victim of a crime receive the best service possible and offender behaviour is changed.
“In particular, we employ specialist Hate Crime Coordinators across districts in order to assist investigating officers in identifying perpetrators, providing after care support as well as engaging with local communities.
“We recognise that there is still further work to do and have created a robust action plan identifying areas for improvement from inspections and guidance, as well as best practice from other Forces.
“Similarly, we are working closely with our partners, who have an equal responsibility to our communities.”