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Thursday, 20 November 2014

Disabled group worried over ‘change in attitudes’

CONCERNS are growing after a third reported hate crime in Millom in three months.

By Will Metcalfe

South Copeland Disability Group has been contacted three times in three months after poison pen letters were delivered in the town.

The group, which acts as a third party reporter of hate crimes, was first contacted in December after a woman received a letter referring to her as a “parasite”.

The group has since learned there was an earlier incident.

And now the group has been alerted to the third incident in as many months, and has reported it to Cumbria police.

An anonymous letter posted to a Millom woman called her a “fat, ugly scrounger”.

Noel “Rocky” Moore, secretary of South Copeland Disability Group, said group members were concerned government spending cuts were having a damaging effect on the way people with disabilities were being viewed.

He said: “At one point nobody was bothered if you are disabled.

“Now people seem to think you’re taking money from them.

“The victim this time was on disability assessment so isn’t even receiving benefits.”

The group now plans to raise its concerns with Copeland MP Jamie Reed to highlight what it considers is a change in attitude towards people with disabilities.

Group chairman, Gary Jackson, said: “We’re aware of three separate incidents of hate crime.

“Major national charities are reporting an increase in disability hate crime but we’re saddened to see it happening in a small community like ours.

“Poison pen letters are a particularly unpleasant form of abuse, not least because they are anonymous.

“We know of three incidents but maybe there are others that have gone unreported.

“People needn’t suffer in silence, they can report the incidents to us or the police.”

DC Dan Chadwick is the lead officer for investigating hate crime in South Cumbria.

He said: “It is the job of police to protect the most vulnerable members of our communities. Offenders should not be allowed to get away with targeting people just because they think they are different, and police can only take action if officers know that something has happened.

“We rely on the public to report this to us.

“We know many hate crimes go unreported, either because victims don’t want to bother police or don’t feel comfortable visiting a police station and talking about their experiences to an officer.

“To encourage victims to come forward, we are working with community centres and support groups across Cumbria to provide third party reporting centres.

“These are safe, neutral locations where victims and witnesses can report incidents without having to visit a police station.”

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