Suffolk: Rise in attacks on disabled

More than 140 assaults have been carried out on disabled people in Suffolk over the last five years, it can be revealed today.

A total of 143 attacks were carried out between 2005 and 2010 with numbers showing an increase over the past three years.

The figures, obtained by a Freedom of Information request, show that between 2009 and 2010 there were a total of 34 attacks while back in 2007 to 2008 there were 20.

Last month, young father Nikki Cross was jailed for three years after carrying out a “vicious and frenzied” assault on wheelchair-user Douglas Dean.

Cross, 19, kicked and punched the 62-year-old repeatedly, causing him to fall into a ditch full of water.

As a result of the attack, which took place in Wingfield in Suffolk in March last year, Mr Dean suffered a small brain haemorrhage and permanent damage to his left hand. Linda Hoggarth, chairman of Suffolk-based disability charity Optua, said: “Optua has welcomed the improved reporting of disablist incidents by Suffolk Constabulary since 2008 and we anticipated an increase in numbers because of that and because of an increased awareness of disability hate crime by disabled people.

“Research shows that disabled people are four times more likely to be victims of crime compared to non-disabled people, and that disabled people are at a higher risk and experience greater levels of targeted violence in comparison to non-disabled people.

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“Within disability, people with learning disabilities and/or mental health conditions experience higher levels of targeted violence.

“So our view is that this is a very serious issue for disabled people and Optua is involved in initiatives to raise awareness of all crimes which target people because of their disability.”

A spokesperson from Scope, the disability charity, added: “Our concern is that these figures are only the tip of the iceberg.

“We know that disability hate crime is an area that is significantly under-reported and that conviction rates for disability hate crimes remain much lower than other types of hate crime.”