A PARALYMPIC gold medal winner is putting all her muscle into a police campaign to tackle hate crime after she herself became a victim.
Josie Pearson who won a gold medal in the discus in London 2012 with a new world record is now a new kind of champion as her image appears on more than 50 First Midland Red buses across Worcestershire and Herefordshire. She is the face of West Mercia Police's "We're all Human" awareness campaign to increase reporting of hate crime which includes name calling, graffiti, vandalism, text messages, Facebook and Twitter messages through to more serious assaults. Police want more people to report hate crimes, of which there were 54 against disabled people across West Mercia in 2013/14 although police say it is one of the most under-reported criminal offences.
Josie of Hay-on-Wye is featured on a poster on the back of the buses under the heading: "Disability Hate Crime. We won't tolerate it - Neither should you." The campaign was launched at First Midland Red, Bus Garage, Padmore Street, Worcester, yesterday.
The 28-year-old was the victim of a hate crime when she was verbally attacked after challenging a man who had parked in a blue badge holder space, something she described as 'a real bugbear'.
Josie said: "He said it was 'none of my business'. I was in a bit of shock that somebody could be so rude and ignorant.
"Why should I be subjected to something like that when I was just pointing out he was in the wrong? I'm a confident person so I stood my ground and told him to move his car and that I would report him if he didn't do it.
"Unfortunately some people don't have that confidence or may have a mental disability and don't understand they are being discriminated against." However, she said London 2012 had helped to break down barriers in the battle against hate crime. She said: "I'm not any different to anyone else - I just happen to be in a wheelchair and not use my legs. No matter your disability or your religion or your race, nobody should be discriminated against." She did not report the hate crime because there were no witnesses but urged others to report such incidents to the police immediately on 101. Josie said she did not realise until afterwards she had been the victim of a hate crime and said, as a crime, it was "very much under the radar" with many people not confident enough to report it. The scheme itself was devised by Inspector Ed Hancox, who described Josie as 'inspirational', after a previous successful campaign involving Mickey Bushell elsewhere in West Mercia. The campaign has been funded by West Mercia's Police and Crime Commissioner, Bill Longmore.