Three autism-friendly hate and mate crime reporting centres have been opened in the Wirral, giving autistic members of the community more opportunity to report alleged offences of abuse, bullying, theft, online harassment and manipulation to specially-trained staff.
Charity Autism Together has opened the reporting centres, which are autism-friendly environments based in existing facilities in Birkenhead and Bromborough.
The launch of the centres during Hate Crime Awareness Week (8-15 October) also coincide with news that Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) reported a massive 41% increase in prosecutions for disability hate crimes in 2015/2016 compared to the previous 12 months. Although some surveys have suggested that the overall incidence of disability hate crime may be falling.
A disability hate crime is any criminal offence motivated by hostility or prejudice because of a person's disability. Mate crimes are crimes committed against vulnerable individuals by their own friends. Research published in 2015 by the charity found that 80% of over 16s with autism questioned had been bullied or taken advantage of by a friend, and 54% of 12 to 16-year-olds had had money or possessions stolen.
Nationwide research by Dimensions has found that 43% of people with learning disabilities or autism are scared of other people, while 73% have experienced hate crime – 53% in the last year alone.
Chief executive of Autism Together, Robin Bush, said, “[The] figures from the CPS point to a sharp rise in disability hate crime. We won't let this issue drop below the radar. That's why we've partnered with Dimensions and many other charities to raise the issue in the public consciousness. We'll be lobbying at government level to ensure vulnerable people are treated fairly and equally within the law.
“We know that 1 in every 100 people in Merseyside is on the autism spectrum. Our message to them is: don't accept hate or mate crime, report it. You will be listened to.”
The reporting centres are at:
• The Rainbow Resource Centre, 120 Chester Street, Birkenhead, CH41 5DL. Tel 0151 666 9960
• Wirral Centre for Autism, 6 Tebay Road, Bromborough, CH62 3PA. Tel 0151 334 7510
• Tower House, Unit 1, Tower Road, Birkenhead, CH41 1FT. Tel 0151 559 2399 x 2
Victims of hate or mate crimes can also report their experiences to the police (only call 999 in an emergency) or adult or children's safeguarding personnel. Alternatively, they can file a report online via the True Vision website at: www.report-it.org.uk