HATE crimes against disabled people in Wiltshire reached a record high last year, new figures reveal.

Home Office data shows 78 disability hate crimes were recorded by Wiltshire Police in 2019-20.

That was up by 11 per cent compared to the previous year – when 70 incidents were reported – and the highest figure since 2011-12.

Reports can include assault, harassment, and criminal damage against someone with a physical or learning disability, or mental health problem.

Disability charity Leonard Cheshire has called for tougher action on the “abhorrent” crime, after joint analysis carried out with United Response found only around 2 per cent of disability hate incidents result in a charge or summons nationally.

Leonard Cheshire disability hate crime advocate Terry McCorry said: “This intolerable crime can seriously impact the lives of disabled people who are already marginalised by society.

“Social isolation can be a huge issue for disabled people and disability hate crime only serves to make people feel more reluctant to get out and about.”

A total of 724 hate crimes were reported in Swindon and Wiltshire between April 2019 and March 2020, compared to 676 the previous year.

This is a 7.1 per cent increase in overall hate crime in the county, which is below the national increase of 8 per cent. This figure represents 1.5 per cent of all reported crimes in the whole of Wiltshire and Swindon.

The latest statistics come amid National Hate Crime Awareness Week – a national initiative aimed at increasing recognition of the crime and supporting those who are victims of hate.

Force lead for Hate Crime superintendent Dave Mint said: “We have seen a slight increase in hate crime figures for the county. As a force we take all reports of hate crime seriously and encourage and actively promote reporting. This increase tells us that more people are having the confidence to come forward.

“Hate crime can be extremely frightening, distressing and isolating for an individual or family and no one should have to suffer like this.

“I want people to feel safe to live in or visit Wiltshire. We will respond robustly to anyone committing these crimes, scrutinise how we investigate hate crime so we can improve the quality of our investigations, and continue to encourage anyone who experiences a hate crime to report it.”

Nationally, police recorded 105,090 hate crimes in the last year – a record high, and an 8 per cent rise on the previous year’s figures.

The Home Office said the increase can be put down to improvements in recording and awareness of hate crime but added genuine rises after events such as the EU referendum in 2016 and terror attacks the following year have also contributed.

Anyone affected by a hate crime, should call in an emergency 999 and in a non-emergency call 101. Visit: www.report-it.org.uk