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  1. ITV Report

'Real humans walk on legs': Actress Samantha Renke tells of abuse she faces as levels of online hate crime soar

  • Video by ITV News Multimedia Producer Kavi Patel

"Real humans walk on legs."

"You're a freak."

"Midget."

These are the words actress Samantha Renke has faced online because she uses a wheelchair.

Online hate crimes against disabled people soared by a third in one year - but the numbers recorded are just the "tip of the iceberg", a charity has warned.

Ms Renke, who has Osteogenesis Imperfecta - more commonly known as the brittle bones condition, told ITV News that the impact of trolling people with disabilities "can cause people to take their own lives".

The 33-year-old is calling for social media platforms to enforce "harsher sanctions" and to take more responsibility on hate speech.

Online hate crimes against disabled people soared by a third in one year. Credit: PA

Police forces across England and Wales revealed there were 313 incidents reported in 2017-18, up from 235 in the previous year.

But the Leonard Cheshire Foundation said the true figure is probably far higher.

The charity’s chief executive, Neil Heslop, said: "Police are increasingly recording online offences, but we know it remains an underreported area and that disabled people may have reservations about speaking out.

"We suspect many crimes remain under the radar, with survivors never getting support and perpetrators facing no consequences."