Councillor tells of close friend’s race hate hell

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A St Helens councillor has given a harrowing account of how her friend was racially abused online.

Coun Jeanie Bell was speaking during a council chamber debate hate crime in the borough.

While reports of hate crime have increased in many parts of the country in the wake of the Brexit vote, St Helens has been largely untroubled.

However councillors are determined to ensure that the hand of friendship continues to be extended to everyone – regardless of race, religion, age, disability gender or sexuality.

This week’s full council meeting saw members unanimously agree a motion brought by Cabinet Member for Safer Communities, Coun Preston, to that effect – and condemning racist, xenophobic and hate crimes unequivocally.

“St Helens is proud to be part of a diverse and tolerant society,” said Councillor Preston, “and with the worrying rise in reported hate crime since the Brexit vote we want to send a very clear message that St Helens is no place for hate.”

Several members spoke in support of the motion, including Cabinet Member for Public Health and Wellbeing Coun Bell, who gave a moving account of a young family friend who had told her social media followers how her house had been attacked - simply because of her eastern European origins.

“This 18-year-old girl had made her home here and had been volunteering at her local hospital,” said Councillor Bell, “but said she now felt lost and heartbroken by what was happening.”

Coun Richard McCauley, cabinet member for Change and Transition, said: “We must show the way for the rest of the country. It’s our duty to stand up and be counted – and prove that St Helens is no place for hate.”