Police force reviews hate crime policy after family’s five-year ordeal


A Welsh police force is reviewing how it deals with disability hate crime, after a disabled woman complained of a five-year campaign of harassment at the hands of local thugs.

Irene Miles a wheelchair-user from Newport, Gwent, revealed in a BBC Wales documentary how she and her daughter had called police 60 times in five years.

Bricks were thrown at her adapted car, creosote was poured over it, and paint was thrown over their back yard.

None of these incidents was treated as a disability hate crime.

The documentary showed CCTV footage of the latest incident, on 2 November last year, in which a hooded man smashed every window of her car.

Miles said she was convinced she was targeted because she was disabled, and compared her case with that of Fiona Pilkington, who was driven to kill herself and her disabled daughter after years of disablist harassment by local thugs.

Another disabled person interviewed for the documentary was Peter Wood, who spent weeks in hospital after an arson attack on his home in Barry, south Wales.

He became reclusive after years of abuse and name-calling by local thugs. After leaving hospital he moved to Devon to escape the harassment.

The programme was presented by Simon Green, a wheelchair-user from Bridgend, who used undercover filming to show the disablist name-calling and threats he receives on nights out.

Chief superintendent Paul Symes, head of neighbourhood policing for Gwent police, said: “We are currently reviewing the way we have dealt with the Miles family and their neighbours over a considerable period of time, to see if any lessons can be learnt.

“We have also redesigned our daily management meeting to give hate crime greater scrutiny.”

A force spokesman added: “Our hate crime policy is being reviewed and any lessons from the review of the handling of this case will be built in.”

He said the damage to the car on 2 November was not immediately viewed as a hate crime, but was reclassified as a disability hate crime several days later after contact from Victim Support.

No-one from South Wales police was available to comment on the arson attack in Barry.

6 January 2010

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