THE POLISH community of Leeds was offered a heartfelt apology in the wake of a racially aggravated assault.
Around 80 people gathered in the Polish Catholic Centre in Potternewton last night to hear from police about the investigation into the attack on a 28-year-old man in Armley.
Organised by the Polish Consulate in Manchester, it aimed to look at how the community and authorities could tackle the issue of hate crime.
Leading police and political figures in the city sought to offer reassurance and stressed that hate crime would not be tolerated.
But some of the loudest applause was received by Coun Alison Lowe, who apologised on behalf of her Armley constituency.
She said last week’s incident had made her ashamed to represent the area for the first time in 27 years.
“Believe me when I say there are thousands of people in Armley who are welcoming, tolerant and want you to be there,” she said.
Leeds North East MP Fabian Hamilton said: “We’re a city that welcomes anybody who wants to come here. My message is you are welcome.”
But when the floor was opened up to the public, one mother spoke about the racial abuse her children faced at school after the vote to leave the EU.
The audience had earlier heard that eight teenagers, the youngest only 13, had been arrested on suspicion of being involved in the Armley attack.
Detective Inspector Paul Hobson, who is leading the investigation, said one of those arrested was still in custody today but the others had been released on bail.
He said a ninth suspect was being sought and there could be further arrests yet.
The meeting heard Leeds City Council had written to every school to urge them to teach pupils that hate crime would not be tolerated.
Training for teachers, a review of the council’s cohesion plan and the role of education in the police’s strategy were all highlighted.
Chief Superintendent Paul Money, Leeds District Commander, said: “I suspect there’s a lot of hate crime and hate incidents that are never reported to us. It’s absolutely vital that people have confidence in terms of reporting it to us.”
Hate crimes in Leeds are being “significantly under reported” according a report to the city council.
The report examines the progress being made in welcoming newcomers to Leeds as part of its role as a City Of Sanctuary.
It will be discussed at next Wednesday’s meeting of Leeds City Council’s executive board, set to be chaired by council leader Coun Judith Blake.
The report states that while there has been a rise in race hate nationally since Brexit, the increase in Leeds has been minimal.
From April 1 to August 11 the council received 107 reports of race hate incidents, compared with 101 for the same period last year. But the report also states: “Whilst the formal reporting has not increased significantly since Brexit, newcomers are telling third sector organisations that they feel less safe now and are subject to more race hate incidents, not all of which are formally reported.
“It is vital people feel able to report incidents so they can both be and feel safe.”
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