Disabled targeted in Rotherham bus hate crime incidents

BEING punched in the face, hit with objects and verbally abused are just some of the hate crime incidents disabled people have faced while travelling on buses.

These stories have prompted Cllr Emma Hoddinott to write to bus firms and ask them to do more to tackle disability hate crime and help increase police convictions.

Cllr Hoddinott, Rotherham Council’s cabinet member for waste, roads and community safety, met  a group of disabled people and representatives from Speak Up Self Advocacy group ahead of hate crime awareness week this week (October 8-15).

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The councillor said the stories were “shocking” and showed it was clear disability hate crime on Rotherham buses was an issue which needed to be taken more seriously.

“I met with seven disabled people who all told me about their hate crime experiences, many involved being on a bus,” said Cllr Hoddinott.

“Incidents included people being told by other passengers they were going to set their hair on fire, being hit with a sling slot and being sworn at.

“It was upsetting to hear how cruel some people can be to other people.

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“I didn’t think it would be as bad as it was, I had not appreciated the consistency of it and how it had become a regular thing for disabled people.”

One disabled man, who did not wish to be identified, said: “A woman was shouting on the bus so I asked the driver to ask her to be quiet.

“She came up and punched me in the face.

“I screamed at her and I was getting angry.

“Someone came over and calmed me down and stayed with me until I got off.”

The group said getting on a bus could be an anxious or stressful experience and sometimes other passengers provoked them on purpose so they would lash out.

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Cllr Hoddinott said the group was very complimentary about bus drivers and said they often intervened and checked on them.

“However, there was concern about whether reports to drivers were followed up, if evidence was sought and prosecutions brought,” she added.

Cllr Hoddinott said she had now written to bus firms Stagecoach, First, Powells and TM Travel to highlight people’s experiences and look at ways the council and bus firms could work together to address the low number of prosecutions.  

The councillor said she wanted it to become mandatory for bus companies to report all hate crime incidents to police and CCTV from buses used to catch perpetrators.

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The initiative is also being supported by Rotherham Youth Cabinet.

Member Tom Jackson (17) said: “Hate crime can have devastating impact on people, none more so than young people. It can have a life-long impact on them and even change their future prospects.

“Our role is to help young people understand this sort of crime has no place in society and should not be tolerated.

“We are raising awareness with young people that this sort of behaviour is not acceptable and you will be punished if you choose to bully and intimidate people.”

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ROTHERHAM charity Speakup has been awarded £4,750 by police and crime commissioner Dr Alan Billings to raise awareness of hate crime.

It is aimed at helping vulnerable people understand how to report hate crime, while increasing support to victims of this type of crime.