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School victim of hate crime attack

Local politicians and councillors have described ‘abusive’ graffiti at Tor Bank school as ‘utterly despicable’.

This incident is one in a number of hate crimes that have taken place in east Belfast.

PSNI statistics show that 200 hate crime incidents took place in east Belfast between April 2009 and March 2010 leading to 109 prosecutions. Two were crimes against people with disabilities.

Alliance representatives Naomi Long MP, Chris Lyttle MLA and Councillor Judith Cochrane saw the graffiti whilst out surveying Dundonald residents February 12 and informed police.

This news comes in the same week that Unite against Hate has begun a new campaign to ‘stomp out’ hate crime here.

Naomi Long, MP, said: “This is utterly despicable and I think people will be rightly sickened by such an abusive and offensive attack on Tor Bank Special School and its pupils.

“It is beyond belief that anyone would single out children with special needs as a target for such abuse.

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Chris Lyttle, MLA, said: “It is hard to comprehend what kind of individual would do such a thing and cause such hurt and offence. We are working to get the graffiti removed as soon as possible.

Cllr Cochrane said: “I know the people of Dundonald will be as angry as I am that Tor Bank and its pupils have been abused in this way.

“The incident is being treated by the police as a hate crime and I would ask anyone who saw any suspicious activity in the area to report it to the police immediately.”

Unite against Hate stated: “More than 2,100 hate crimes were committed against minority groups last year but authorities believe more than twice that go unreported.”

Eva Grosman, Unite against Hate project manager said everyone had a part to play in fighting prejudice and hate crime.

She said the billboards aimed to encourage victims and witnesses to come forward so that under-reporting is reduced.

She added: “Northern Ireland is not unique to suffer from these crimes but they are deeply damaging not just to the victims and their families and friends, but also to the international reputation of the country as a place to visit and invest.”

Assistant Chief Constable Will Kerr said: “If anyone feels they are a victim, report it to your local police station or phone and ask to speak to the district's hate crime and minority liaison officer and we will initiate an investigation.”

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