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Disabled West Norfolk woman says she is frustrated after three attacks on her do not result in criminal charges from police

A disabled woman says she has been left afraid to leave her home as she believes “attacks” against her in Lynn are not being taken seriously.

30-year-old Susan, who has asked us not to use her surname, told the Lynn News that she has reported three separate assaults to police over the past three years, but none have resulted in a charge.

Susan, who is autistic and physically disabled with a chronic spine condition, said the most recent incident happened at the car park of Tesco Extra on the Hardwick on April 5, when she alleges that a man called her an ableist slur before squirting a drink in her face and threatening physical violence.

Susan does not wish to give her full details. Picture: iStock
Susan does not wish to give her full details. Picture: iStock

Susan said he had been parked on the access protection markings next to the disabled bay that she was using.

She said it happened after he saw her taking a photo, at which point he shouted and swore at her. Susan says she said nothing to him at first, but mentioned that she was disabled and autistic and had her blue badges on display.

She then claims that he looked at her badges, before turning back to her and squirting her with an energy drink in her eyes and hair, and on her coat.

Having reported this to the police, Susan - who has a spinal defect and sciatica which often leaves her house-bound - says that officers told her that a decision was made not to seek charges against the alleged perpetrator due to his honesty regarding the situation.

Instead, a community resolution was sought and he was instructed to send Susan a letter of apology.

“I made it clear I wanted to press charges and they haven’t done because he was honest about it,” she said.

“I can’t seem to get enough evidence for them to charge these people who are attacking me.”

Police have confirmed they received three complaints, saying that in the first two there were counter allegations of assault and in the third there was no evidence of a crime.

Disappointed with the police’s reaction, Susan contacted the office of the then-Norfolk Police and Crime Commissioner Giles Orpen-Smellie.

“I reached out to the Police and Crime Commissioner and asked for a meeting to discuss what his policies were in place at the time and what policies he would implement if he was to be re-elected,” she said.

“I contacted them saying - on behalf of vulnerable and physically disabled people - we already find it hard to go out without being under the threat of assault.”

She said to them: “I am concerned for the welfare of not only myself but the community as a whole if this is to continue - crime being committed, admitted and then dismissed.”

“Personally, and speaking on behalf of all mentally and physically disabled community members around Norfolk, it is already hard enough to leave our homes to navigate the world, without being frightened of assault, let alone then having our attackers not held accountable and charged in a proper manner suited to this kind of emotional and physical distress, of which disabled people are more likely to suffer significantly more physical pain and mental torment than an able-bodied, neurotypical person,” Susan added.

She asked if the commissioner would be able to speak to her about what policies were in place to keep young disabled women safe in Norfolk, but was told that the election meant Mr Orpen-Smellie was unavailable.

He has since lost the position to Sarah Taylor, who has now taken up the role.

Norfolk’s PCC office was awarded White Ribbon Accreditation in November 2022 - emphasising its commitment to ending violence against women and girls.

The PCC office has confirmed that Mr Orpen-Smellie could not meet because of the impending election and that the new commissioner is hoping to meet with Susan.

Susan, who lives in a village on the outskirts of Lynn, feels that she has been attacked on these occasions - which also included a similar incident in a Lynn supermarket car park in 2022 and outside of a pub in the town last year - as she was discriminated against.

“It is distressing to leave the house as a disabled vulnerable woman - I’ve been attacked three times in the last three years,” she said.

“I'm not leaving the house alone at the moment because of this, and now looking into buying a body camera for when I am out.

“I really feel so unsafe at this point being alone, and not being able to rely on the police when you have all the proof needed and you're the one telling the truth, the one that's been actually hurt.

“It's so frustrating and so scary that I have no way to defend myself or keep myself safe.”

Susan said these experiences have left her feeling “invisible”.

“I’m feeling very upset and I feel very invisible. I don’t feel like my voice is being heard at all,” she said.

“This is my last hope to get anyone to listen to what is being done.

“I would be extremely surprised if it’s just me. I would be interested if other disabled young women have had similar experiences.”

Susan has since submitted a formal complaint to Norfolk Police over the handling of her case after receiving the letter of apology which she felt was “unacceptable”.

A spokesman for Norfolk Police said: “I can confirm that police did receive three reports of assault. Each incident was fully investigated and all lines of enquiry were exhausted.

“In two of these incidents, a counter-allegation of assault was reported. No further action was taken in either case. In the third incident, there was no evidence to suggest a crime had been committed. There is no record of an open complaint from [Susan].”

A Police and Crime Commissioner office spokesman said: “While we cannot comment on operational matters when the initial request was received from [Susan] to meet the then-current PCC, we were unable to accommodate this immediately due to the rules of the pre-election period.

“As an interim measure, we did, however, reach out to [Susan] to ask permission for us to put her in touch with an engagement officer from the Norfolk Constabulary. To date, we have not heard anything back from [Susan] to progress this further.”

Norfolk’s newly elected Police and Crime Commissioner, Sarah Taylor, added: "I take violence against women and young girls extremely seriously, so I was sorry to hear [Susan] has been unhappy with her treatment as a vulnerable woman with a disability and autism.

“I’m hopeful [Susan] will respond to our invitation to meet.”

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