Creating a fairer Britain
Anne Novis, now in her early 50s, has been a wheelchair user for 20 years as a result of a spinal injury. She is a bold and articulate defender of rights for disabled people, and has been elected as a representative on the UK disabled people’s council. In her day-to-day life, however, several experiences of hate crime have left her so terrified that she now refuses to use buses or leave the house alone.
One particularly alarming incident occurred in 2008 while she was shopping in Greenwich market with her personal assistant and her aunt. She was waiting outside a shop when a man came up behind her. “He started shouting that I was a nuisance in my chair. He said I should have been killed at birth and as I hadn’t been he was going to kill me now.” Novis’ aunt rushed out of the shop and got between her and her attacker:
The officers who arrived at the scene logged the incident as a hate crime, but the investigating officer, who should have interviewed witnesses within a week, did not do so for six months. Nobody was ever arrested for the offence. “I have no confidence at all that the police handle disability hate crime correctly. They do not have the training or the awareness – they don’t treat attacks on disabled people as they would any other hate crime.”
In another incident Novis was targeted by several young men who swung at her with blocks of wood while she was out in the evening. She says that verbal abuse is so common when she tries to use public transport that she can no longer face using buses.