Learning disability crime studied
People with learning disabilities are reluctant to involve the police in cases of bullying and harassment, a report has said.
Acceptance of this type of crime needs to be addressed, research by the Policing Board and Police Ombudsman's office added.
The study suggested that people with learning disabilities generally held positive opinions of police.
Ombudsman Al Hutchinson said: "Many people with learning difficulties suffer bullying and harassment, but all too often they suffer in silence. This report is about helping to ensure that disability hate crime is reported and that the best procedures are in place for combating it.
"It is also about ensuring that people with learning disabilities are treated at all times with dignity, fairness, equality and respect."
The 251-page report is called Views and Experiences of People with Learning Disabilities in Relation to Policing Arrangements in Northern Ireland.
Almost 300 people with learning disabilities, along with key workers and organisations in the learning disability sector, and representatives of the police, policing organisations and criminal justice bodies were consulted during the project.
The study found that people with learning disabilities had largely positive views and experiences of the police. But it also discovered that many instances of bullying and harassment of people with learning disabilities were likely to go unreported because the victims did not realise that they had been a victim of crime, or were unwilling to report it.
Maureen Piggot, director of Mencap in Northern Ireland, said: "It is by listening to the views and experiences of people with a learning disability that we can find out what changes are needed if the policing and criminal justice agencies are to deliver equal access to justice for all."
The joint research between the Ombudsman and Policing Board is due to be published on Wednesday.