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Hate crime training for Avon and Somerset Police

Dimensions, the UK’s largest not-for-profit provider of support for people with learning disabilities, autism and complex needs, and Discovery, the ground-breaking partnership between Dimensions and Somerset County Council, has led a disability hate crime training and awareness session for Avon and Somerset Police to mark National Hate Crime Awareness Week.

Disability hate crime is a prevalent issue across the country. Between 2019 and 2020, online disability hate crime rose by 50% while 2020/21 figures show that 9,252 disability hate crimes have been reported across England and Wales, equivalent to 25 per day.

Dimensions Hate crime training

A disability hate crime can range from name calling and theft to physical abuse and threats. It is important to note that, according to Dimensions’ 2021 hate crime survey, 71% of perpetrators and 33% of victims with learning disabilities and/or autism were adults, highlighting that disability hate crime is not just playground bullying and has serious consequences. Indeed, 35% of respondents with learning disabilities and/or autism who had been victims of hate crime are now more afraid of people as a result of their experiences.

Launched to mark Hate Crime Awareness Week, Dimensions’ 2021 research found that just 31% of people with learning disabilities and/or autism reported the most recent time they experienced hate crime to the police. For disabled individuals more generally, 41% were ‘very unhappy’ with the police’s response. Concerningly, 8% of those with learning disabilities and/or autism did not report it at all. Amongst those who did not report the crime, 67% said this was because they did not think it was important enough, while 33% did not feel the police would listen.
Dr Mark Brookes MBE, Advocacy Lead at Dimensions and expert by experience, led the training for Avon and Somerset Police, empowering frontline officers to make reasonable adjustments for people with learning disabilities and autism across Avon and Somerset.

Adjustments include building links with those who are at risk of disability hate crime within the area and providing clarity at every stage of the reporting process, ensuring individuals feel more confident when speaking to the police and, as a result, increasing the likelihood they would report a crime. By making these adjustments, frontline police officers can help tackle the low rates of disability hate crime reporting currently experienced both in the Somerset area and nationally.

Dimensions has also worked with the National Police Chief’s Council to create a guide on identifying and reporting disability hate crime and offers training to police forces across the UK. This includes a recent seven-month programme for Surrey Police, following which 90% of officers said they felt more confident taking a report from someone with a learning disability. Reporting rates for disability hate crime in the area also increased following the training programme.

Dr Mark Brookes MBE, Advocacy Lead at Dimensions, said: “As someone with a learning disability, I’m very proud to be part of this training. We are now celebrating five years of Dimensions’ #ImWithSam campaign to tackle disability hate crime, but many people still don’t know what a disability hate crime is or have the confidence to report it. Raising awareness and ensuring that frontline police understand about making adjustments is essential if people are going to feel confident reporting a crime.”

Helen Orford, Managing Director of Discovery, said: “Discovery and Dimensions are incredibly proud to deliver this disability hate crime training for Avon and Somerset Police, especially during National Hate Crime Awareness Week. The statistics from our 2021 hate crime survey speak volumes to the importance of this training initiative, alongside our 2016 findings that almost half of police officers in the UK (46%) had never received any training around learning disabilities and/ or autism.

“Discovery aims to make life better for everyone with a learning disability and/or autism across Somerset. Ensuring that our local police force is equipped and empowered with the tools to make adjustments for victims of disability hate crime, build relationships and increase rates of reporting is crucial to achieving this. We would encourage other Somerset public services to get in touch and join the effort to raise awareness of learning disability hate crime through this training.”

Superintendent Wigginton and Inspector O’Mahony, of Avon and Somerset Constabulary, said: “Avon and Somerset Constabulary would like to extend heartfelt thanks to Dr Brookes and the Dimensions Team for the brilliant input they provided to police officers and staff at the Hate Crime TAC training day on 14/10/2021, as part of National Hate Crime Awareness Week. The session provided our teams with invaluable insight, and the ‘I’m With Sam’ campaign video is something we’ll be sharing across the Constabulary. The session was informative and moving, and really re-iterated the devastating impact that Hate Crime can have on individuals and communities. We are absolutely delighted to be working with Dimensions around this incredibly important issue, and look forward working collaboratively with them in the future.”

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