7/7 Survivor Shares Experiences
As part of a number of activities organised in Gwent during Hate Crime Awareness Week 2015, PCC Ian Johnston today welcomed 35 year old Daniel Biddle of Abergavenny as a guest speaker for an event specifically designed to explore disabled people's experiences of disability hate crime.
Up to 60 people ranging from professionals from the Crown Prosecution Service; police officers and police staff; disabled people and representatives from leading disability organisations attended the event which was hosted by Gwent Police at the Parkway Hotel in Cwmbran.
The event was arranged using funding which PCC Ian Johnston secured from the Welsh Government and included workshops on hate crime as well as an interactive drama production based on a real disability hate crime case in Wales. The event also provided an opportunity for all those attending to network, share experiences and lessons learned.
As a survivor of one of the United Kingdom's worst terrorist incidents and the country's first ever suicide attack, Daniel Biddle unfortunately knows only too well the catastrophic impact of hate crime. He was on the London tube train blown up by Mohammad Sidique Khan on July 7 2005 and suffered horrific injuries in the attacks coordinated by extremists. Standing next to the bomber in the carriage, he lost both of his legs, an eye and his spleen in the blast on the Circle Line at Edgware Road and was left totally deaf in one ear. He also suffers with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
As a wheelchair user, Daniel has also experienced prejudice around his disability. It was this, coupled with his background of working in the construction industry, which inspired him to launch Nationwide Access Consultants Ltd, a company which advises companies on disabled access and their legal obligations to the disabled.
Daniel Biddle shared his personal experiences at the event and talked about his life pre and post 7/7 and his thoughts on being a victim of both religiously motivated and disability motivated hate crime.
Speaking prior to the event, Daniel said: "Disability hate crime is underreported and that's why I'm pleased to support this event. For me, this event is all about harnessing the relationship between the police and the disabled community and instilling confidence in people from the disabled community to report these crimes in the first place. It's also about educating the police on how they should be handling these crimes.
During one incident in particular, I was at the local tip disposing of some rubbish with my wife. Because of the layout of the tip it was difficult for me to get out of the car and do anything to help. So, my wife got out of the car and started emptying the rubbish on her own. As she was doing this, we started receiving abuse from a woman who was calling me 'lazy' and 'disrespectful to women'. It reached the point where my wife got my wheelchair out of the car to show her that I was disabled. However, we continued to receive a tirade of abuse from this woman. I honestly think people look at disability in a negative light pretty much 90% of the time."
Welcoming Daniel Biddle as a guest speaker and highlighting the need for the event, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Gwent, Ian Johnston, said: "I would like to thank Daniel for taking the time to share some of his very personal experiences with us. This event was all about raising awareness and ensuring disability hate crime remains a priority.
There has been an increase in recorded disability hate crimes in Gwent and I believe this is a direct result of victims having the confidence to report these crimes to the police and partner agencies. However, we recognise there is still more work to be done as disability hate crime still only accounts for 5% of the total reported hate crimes across England and Wales. We know anecdotally that disabled people's experiences would suggest hate incidents and crimes are part of many individuals' daily experience. This event was all about raising awareness and highlighting our unified commitment to improve our response to disability hate crime."
Gwent Police Hate Crime Lead, Superintendent Mark Warrender, said: "Within Gwent we are really pleased that we are seeing the number of disability hate crimes reported to us increase. This means there is better community awareness around what a hate crime is, and improved confidence in reporting incidents to the Police. We realise there is more to do, however, and today's conference offered a real opportunity to highlight some of the complexities that surround disability hate crime and ensure that when they are reported we maximise the chances of a successful prosecution."