It is the second most reported hate crime in the Avon and Somerset Constabulary policing area behind race
The chief executive of a charity which supports people with learning disabilities has said more needs to be done to encourage victims to report hate crime.
It follows a surge in the number of disability-related hate crimes being reported to Avon and Somerset Constabulary in recent years.
The figure has nearly tripled since 2014, making it the second most reported hate crime in the region behind race.
North Somerset Council has also highlighted hate crimes as one of its priorities in its Safe and Stronger draft plan with 332 incidents reported to police in 2016/17.
The plan states: “Race is recorded as the motivating factor in a high number of offences, though proportionally there have been large increases in disability hate crime reports.”
But according to Michelle Burnett, chief executive of North Somerset People First, which supports people with learning disabilities, this increase is probably a result of awareness rather than more crimes being committed.
“There has been a lot of work done over recent years to bring disability hate crime into the spotlight,” added Ms Burnett.
“People are becoming more and more aware that certain behaviour is not acceptable, but I still believe that there’s a large number of people that aren’t reporting these crimes.
“The problem we face is that some of the people we support aren’t aware that they are being made fun or are the victim of a hate crime.”
North Somerset People First run a number of speaking up groups which encourages members to report any instances of hate crime.
But according to Ms Burnett some of the people with learning disabilities say they are used to hearing derogatory terms and are not necessarily aware of the offence.
“Part of our job is to make them aware that this kind of behaviour is not acceptable but we also have a responsibility to educate society,” she added.
“For years people with learning disabilities were known as having a mental handicap and certain legislation has not helped either, such as The Idiots Act 1886.
“There is a lot of historical stuff that has happened which has led to certain terminology being used.
“People with learning disabilities are some of the most marginalised in society and more needs to be done to support them and give them the confidence to report incidents of hate crime.”
According to the Safe and Stronger plan, it is widely accepted that under-reporting is an issue in hate crime offences and police recorded crime statistics are not an accurate reflection of the true extent of offending.
A statement from the plan said: “Hate crime will not be tolerated in North Somerset and we will continue to work with communities and across the partnership to raise awareness, promote reporting, support victims and bring perpetrators to justice.”