Charity backs police chief's pledge to tackle hate crime
A leading charity has welcomed Leicestershire chief constable Simon Cole's commitment to tackle hate crime against disabled people.
Mr Cole today hailed Britain's Paralympians and said he hoped their achievements would help bring about a change in attitude to people with disabilities.
His comments, in a First Person column on Page 15 of today's Mercury, have been welcomed by Leicestershire charity, Mosaic.
Mr Cole said the athletes' achievements and the global appeal of the Games were "a slap in the face for those who stigmatise and demean" disabled people.
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Previously, Leicestershire police came in for criticism from the Independent Police Complaints Commission for its handling of the Fiona Pilkington case.
The 38-year-old killed herself and her 18-year-old daughter Francecca, who had severe learning disabilities, in October 2007, after suffering years of abuse at the hands of young yobs at their Barwell home.
The case was a watershed and led police forces across the country to review their handling of 'hate crimes' against people with physical or learning disabilities.
Barbara Howard, director of Mosaic, said: "The Paralympics have taken disabled peoples' sports to another level and given them credibility.
"The efforts of those athletes will inspire a generation of young disabled people. But unfortunately, I don't think everyone in the wider community associates those athletes with the Pilkington family or the 50-year-old man in their neighbourhood who has suffered a severe stroke.
"A lot of progress has been made and the police have done some sterling work, but there is still a long way to go. There are still lots of disabled people who are not speaking out about what is happening to them."
Jo Davies, campaigns and policy officer at Mencap, said: "Mr Cole's article demonstrates that disability hate crime is under-reported to the police and is still a huge issue.
"That is not going to change overnight because of the Paralympics.
"There is still some way to go before disabled people have equality."
In his First Person article, Mr Cole, who speaks for the Association of Chief Police Officers on mental health and disability, said forces had worked hard to encourage victims to come forward in the knowledge the crimes against them would be thoroughly investigated.
He said: "There has been much talk of an Olympic legacy. I am hopeful part of the Paralympic legacy will be a reduction in stigmatisation, an acceptance of difference, and further improvements in the policing of disability hate crime."
To report hate crime, contact Leicestershire police on 101 or, in an emergency, 999.
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