'My daughter is afraid to go out alone after attack but I don't know what can be done to tackle disability hate crime rise'

The mother of a vulnerable young woman who was terrorised by a gang as she walked home alone has expressed her anger and frustration as West Yorkshire has been revealed as a hotspot for disability hate crimes.

Wednesday, 9th October 2019, 11:45 am
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.

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 admits she doesn't know how disability hate crime can be tackled as figures released by charity United Response show West Yorkshire is the worst place for the offence in England and Wales. There were a total of 818 disability hate crimes recorded in the region during 2018/19 - a rise of 53 per cent on the previous 12 months and an even bigger increase of 156 per cent on the 319 crimes recorded in 2016/17.

Miss Horton, 47, said: "I just don't know what the answer is to tackle this to be honest.

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"There are so many different types of disability hate crimes it's hard to know where to start.

"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."

Despite West Yorkshire Police investigating the crime against Amy, the perpetrators have yet to be brought to justice.

"Amy has given her video evidence, but the police said they are not positive that anything will come of it because of the age of those involved," Miss Horton said.

"The investigation is still ongoing, but for Amy this has been a long time.

"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.

Almost half - a total of 395 - of last year's disability hate crimes were classed as 'violence against the person' - more than any other single type of crime in West Yorkshire and up considerably from the year before.

These crimes include assault, harassment, stalking and malicious communications towards a victim.

Public order offences remained high for the second year running with 314 separate incidents.

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 has said previously that all hate crime incidents are investigated thoroughly.

The force states that it is currently working with various partners to raise awareness of hate crime, increase reporting and support victims.