The opening of the new hub, located at Kentmere Community Centre, comes following news of a surge in disability hate crimes across England and Wales since 2016-17. A national investigation by the charity this month revealed that West Yorkshire recorded the highest number of disability hate crimes anywhere in the country for the second successive year in 2018-19.

The investigation showed that prosecution rates for disability hate crimes are now so low that fewer than 4% of all the 10,535 crimes that were reported across 27 regions over the past three years resulted in a successful punishment outcome. While fewer than 3% of disability hate crimes in 2018-19 resulted in a prosecution or charge.

The charity says that, while national increases in disability hate crimes could in some cases be due to improved reporting efforts and confidence among victims, it would be wrong to not look at the root issues behind these disturbing figures – especially against the backdrop of dwindling charges or prosecutions and increased repeat offenders.

United Response director of quality and practice, Sarah Battershall said it’s important that criminals be made aware of the damaging impact their attacks have on people. She said:

‘The hard facts are that more and more people with learning disabilities or autism are being subjected to criminal harm and seemingly a smaller proportion of those responsible are being given the punishment they deserve.

‘It is critical that these criminals are brought to justice in the right way but also educated on the hugely damaging impact their mindless and cowardly acts have on vulnerable people. It’s clear that not enough is being done to prevent these crimes, in some cases leading to far too many freely committing the same offence again.

‘We’re committed to tackling this once and for all and are building on the success of our partnerships and campaign from last year to keep awareness of this worsening issue alive.’

United Response is training care professionals and working with the authorities to empower victims to speak out and make sure fewer cases slip through the justice system.

The charity has partnered West Yorkshire Police, Stop Hate UK and Leeds City Council to host its new reporting centre, where victims or bystanders can anonymously give information to help the authorities gather intelligence of disability hate crimes committed in the area.

The new reporting service is located at Kentmere Community Centre on Kentmere Avenue, Leeds, LS14 1BW. Call United Response on 01132 733 663 for more information.