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10.12.13

Disabled people ‘don’t get the protection they need’ – EHRC

Public bodies must build on progress to tackle disability-related harassment, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has announced.

Following the publication last year of the commission’s Manifesto for Change, many recommendations have been adopted, including disability equality training for bus drivers.

But the EHRC has urged organisations to do more; for police to focus on the number of incidents of harassment, rather than just the call rate, and for more action to build disabled people’s confidence in using public transport.

Chris Holmes, disability commissioner at the EHRC, said: “Although we were encouraged by some of the positive examples of progress by public authorities, the tragic case of [Bijan] Ebrahimi is a stark reminder of the fact that many disabled people are abused daily and don’t get the protection they need and are entitled to expect.”

Bijan Ebrahimi of Brislington in Bristol, who was disabled, was killed by his neighbour Lee James, 24, in a ‘vigilante’ attack after wrongly being branded a paedophile following years of taunts and abuse. James was jailed in November for a minimum of 18 years and Stephen Norley, 25, who admitted assisting an offender, was given a four-year jail term.

Ebrahimi's sister, Manizhah Moores, said he was subjected to “horrendous bullying by bad people on a daily basis” and added: “Call it racism, call it prejudice – it doesn't really matter what you call it, the things our brother was subjected to were barbaric.”

Avon and Somerset Chief Constable Nick Gargan issued an apology about his force’s role in the case, saying: “Mr Ebrahimi was someone who deserved the protection of all of us and we are very sorry about what happened to him.”

He also said: “It is clear that there was a collective failure on the part of statutory agencies and others to protect Mr Ebrahimi. We need to have some frank and candid local discussions with our partners and our communities about what we collectively can do to stop this happening again.

“Senior people in our own organisation have already put in place urgent actions to improve the way we respond to the vulnerable, handle reports of anti-social behaviour and identify repeat callers and victims and we will continue to talk to partners to improve the way we work together to protect the public.”

Holmes said: “The Commission will continue to act as a critical friend to support authorities in fully implementing our recommendations and working towards the elimination of this particularly nasty crime.”

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