AVON and Somerset Police officers have undergone a series of hate crime training sessions to better equip themselves when dealing with such crimes in the field.

The program focussed on disability hate crimes in particular but covered all aspects of discriminatory crime that happens day to day across the UK.

Home Office data shows Avon and Somerset Police recorded 457 homophobic and biphobic hate crimes in the year to March.

From those same crime figures it showed that in 2021 9,252 disability hate crimes have been reported across England and Wales, equivalent to 25 per day.

Chard & Ilminster News: Police-recorded disability hate crimes in England & Wales (Infographic: PA Graphics)Police-recorded disability hate crimes in England & Wales (Infographic: PA Graphics)

A disability hate crime can range from name calling and theft to physical abuse and threats.

The training program was run by Discovery which is a social enterprise that supports people with learning disabilities and autism.

Discovery was formed by Dimensions, a not-for-profit support organisation, and the Somerset County Council.

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.

These training programs were designed to improve how the Avon and Somerset Police handle cases to do with disability hate crimes.

Research undertaken in 2021 by Dimensions states that just 31% of people with learning disabilities reported the most recent time they experienced hate crime to the police.

On top of that, of disabled individuals in general 41% were ‘very unhappy’ with the police’s response to disability hate crimes.

67% said this was because they did not think it was important enough, while 33% did not feel the police would listen.

Chard & Ilminster News: Dr Mark Brookes MBE delivering the training onlineDr Mark Brookes MBE delivering the training online

Dr Mark Brookes MBE, advocacy lead at Dimensions led the training for Avon and Somerset Police, he said this training is essential.

“As someone with a learning disability, I’m very proud to be part of this training."

"Many people still don’t know what a disability hate crime is or have the confidence to report it; ensuring that frontline police understand about making adjustments is essential if people are going to feel confident reporting a crime.”

Superintendent Wigginton and Inspector O’Mahony, of Avon and Somerset Constabulary, said the training sessions were invaluable.

“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."

"The session provided our teams with invaluable insight, and really re-iterated the devastating impact that hate crime can have on individuals and communities," they said.

"We are absolutely delighted to be working with Dimensions around this incredibly important issue, and look forward working collaboratively with them in the future.”

Dimensions and Discovery have set up a website where members of the police force can learn more about hate crimes and how best to deal with certain situations regarding disabled individuals - this tool can be found here.