Victims back new campaign to target hate crimes in Oxfordshire

NIGEL TAYLOR – a man suffering with cataracts, hearing difficulties, diabetes and deformed feet – remembers the moment clearly.

Sitting on a packed bus, two people started taunting him, saying: “What do we want a disabled spastic like you sat next to us on a bus for?”

Such was the abuse there was only one thing he could do: “I pretended I could not hear, and I took my hearing aid out.”

It was not an isolated incident for the 53-year-old and yesterday he spoke out in support of the latest campaign to fight the abuse the disabled, gays, lesbian and minorities face all too often.

Mr Taylor is a representative of disabled self-advocacy group My Life My Choice and doesn’t want others to suffer as he has.

He said: “I have got disabilities but I am not afraid to go out there and tell able-bodied people where they are going wrong.”

Brenda Churchill, 65, from Witney has a heart condition, diabetes and suffers from osteoarthritis which means she cannot walk.

She is also a town councillor for the town but says she is also treated poorly by inconsiderate members of the public.

She said: “I get a lot of abuse when I am out on my scooter. People are oblivious to you being there.


“People will walk straight into you and then complain. It has happened to me many times.”

Now the pair are backing the launch of a new hotline for hate crime victims.

A hate crime is verbal or physical attacks based on a person’s disability, gender-identity, race, religion or faith and sexual orientation.

The number of such offences reported in the city has declined in the past three years.

From April to September, 64 hate crimes were reported in Oxford compared to 73 and 104 in 2011 and 2010 respectively.

And the detection rate was 65 per cent this year compared to about 40 per cent in the previous two years.

But Thames Valley Police chief inspector Hugh Matthews said the force believes that, given the nature of the offence, as many as eight out of 10 hate crimes go unreported.

He said: “There is a range of reasons why people may not feel comfortable or able to contact the police.

“It ranges from distrust or fear of authority or fear they may be treated cynically or not taken seriously.”

The new hotline, launched in Oxford yesterday, comes four years after Thames Valley Police launched a campaign calling for “silent victims” of domestic, racial and homophobic crimes to come forward.

The police and authorities in the council have provided 12 month’s funding of £10,462 for the hotline service, run by the charity StopHateUK.

Mr Taylor, from Banbury, said: “I think this new line is going to be really useful. I have been so impressed by the commitment to it.

“When people get picked on or bullied they need to be aware of that number.”

StopHateUK chief executive Rose Simkin said race and disability attacks were the most common.

She said: “The police want to get the reports and to deal with them appropriately.”

The move was welcomed by Cheryl Briggs, chairman of the Oxfordshire Homophobic Awareness Liaison Team.

Its latest annual members’ survey found 40 per cent of respondents, 48 people, had suffered verbal abuse.

But just 10 per cent report it to the police while eight per cent reported to another agency. The remainder did not make a report.

She said: “Not a lot of people want to go to the police. Thames Valley Police are really good, they have a department especially for hate crime. “They take every incident seriously.”

Call the helpline on 0800 138 1625.

Oxford Mail Tuesday 6th November 2012 in News By Oliver Evans