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Disabled people 'failed by police'

Disabled people are being failed by police and left to suffer violence, harassment and abuse, a learning disability charity said.

Mencap, which is launching a three-year campaign against hate crime, said there was a "general lack of police understanding of disability hate crime" and an absence of a strategy to tackle it.

The report comes after Fiona Pilkington, 38, killed herself and her disabled daughter Francecca Hardwick, 18, in 2007 following 10 years of sustained abuse and harassment by a gang in Leicestershire.

Officers are not taking reports of such crimes seriously enough, risking "years of harassment and anti-social behaviour escalating into more serious incidents", the charity said.

The Stand By Me campaign called for a dedicated officer within each force to deal with hate crime and said all officers should be trained to spot and tackle the crime.

Forces should also improve their systems to get "a better sense of the true scale of the problem", the charity said.

One in two people believe those with disabilities are more likely to be the targets of abusive comments or aggressive behaviour than others, a poll of more than 1,000 people showed.

Two in three consider abusive comments such as name calling directed at someone with a disability as a hate crime, rising to three in four when aggressive behaviour such as pushing or hitting was involved.

Mencap also highlighted the death of David Askew, 64, who collapsed and died on March 10 last year after an incident when youths had reportedly thrown a wheelie bin around and tampered with his mother's mobility scooter.

Mr Askew, who had learning difficulties, and his family were plagued for years by yobs on the sprawling council estate in Hattersley, Tameside, and called police 88 times between January 2004 and March 2010.

Mark Goldring, Mencap's chief executive, said: "When hate crime takes hold it stops people living their lives in the way they want to.

"The tragic deaths of Fiona Pilkington and Francecca Hardwick in 2007 and David Askew in 2010 are just two examples of where low-level harassment ignored by police was allowed to escalate into sustained abuse with fatal consequences."

He went on: "It is estimated that as many as nine out of 10 people with a learning disability are verbally harassed or exposed to violence due to their disability.

"Today's report proves that police have not got to grips with disability hate crime, let alone crime against people with a learning disability.

"Too often they accept abuse as a part of their daily life. Early intervention is vital if people with disabilities are not to live in fear."

A Home Office spokesman said: "Everyone should have the freedom to live their lives without fear of targeted hostility or harassment.

"Under this Government, and for the first time, police are recording hate crime data centrally.

"This will help the police to target resources more effectively and better protect victims."

:: Ipsos Mori interviewed a representative sample of 1,029 adults aged 15 plus across Great Britain between March 11 and 17.