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The truth about disability hate crime

Simon Green
Simon Green's condition causes tumours to grow in his legs

Simon Green lives in Bridgend in Wales and late last year he agreed to take on a secret filming project for the BBC in order to highlight how he and others in the disabled community are being singled out for physical and verbal abuse because of their conditions. Simon shares with Panorama his experiences from the receiving end of disability hate crime.

My name is Simon Green, I'm 34 years old and I was born and bred in Bridgend.

I am a huge rugby fan and supporter of Bridgend and I'm also team manager of the Bridgend Blue Bulls Rugby League Team.

I am also a wheelchair-user.

I suffer from a condition called Neurofibromatosis. The condition has caused me to develop tumours and caused me many health problems. Six years ago I started using a wheelchair.

When I realised that I would probably have to spend the rest of my life using a wheelchair, I was devastated and knew my life would be forever different. I expected to have problems doing everyday things like shopping and using public transport and I expected, perhaps, that I would be at times patronised.

'Spastic, cripple'

But the phrase "Disability Hate Crime" had never entered my head and while I did expect to be treated differently I never thought in a million years that some would treat me with hostility, aggression and hate.

When I agreed to help make this programme I hoped we would discover that disability hate crime was a myth, but sadly that's not true

Over the past six years I have been called a "spastic" and a "cripple" more times that I can remember. I've been tipped over and even thrown out of my wheelchair and I have been assaulted while on a night out. A few of these cases can be put down to bullying, but in my opinion many can be put down to a revulsion and a total dislike and loathing of the disabled.

When I tell friends and family about these instances, they tend not to believe me, or think I am exaggerating. That is why I agreed to appear in this programme to show people the reality. I hope that doing this programme raises awareness and highlights what is sadly still a hidden issue.

Don't get me wrong, the overwhelming majority of people I meet are kind and treat me perfectly normally - I have lots of fantastic friends and a very good life. But my life could be even better if it wasn't for a small minority who seem to have a problem with disability.

'I've lived it'

We have all heard of racism and homophobia and few would deny they exist. But many people don't believe that there is such a thing as disability hate crime. Perhaps they don't want to believe it.

Unfortunately it does exist, I know it because I've lived it.

In researching the programme, I met other disabled people and heard about the abuses they too have suffered as targets of this particular hate crime.

From taking part in this programme I have also realised that the police and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) could do a lot more to help prevent it and to bring the perpetrators to justice.

The head of the CPS agrees that the knowledge of disability hate crime and the way it is dealt with is 10-15 years behind racism. This seriously needs to improve.

When I agreed to help make this programme, a part of me had hoped we would discover that disability hate crime was a myth, but sadly that's not true.

Panorama: Why Do You Hate Me?, BBC One, Monday, 15 February at 8.30pm.

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Monday, 4 January 2010, 07:09 GMT |  Wales
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Thursday, 26 November 2009, 00:46 GMT |  UK
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