THE jailing of three burglars after an attack on a man with autism has been welcomed by campaigners against hate crime.
Robert Lemon, 20, Dean Wilkins, and Paul Richmond, both 21, all from Bracknell, were sent to prison by a judge at Reading Crown Court on Friday, after ransacking the home of an Asperger's sufferer.
The trio went to the man's house in Martin's Heron on December 28, 2011, chatted to him and left - but returned later when he was out, trashing the property and stealing DVDs and a PlayStation.
They had demanded �30 which he supposedly owed them.
The autistic 21-year-old - who requires 24-hour care - returned home during the raid and was punched and slapped by Wilkins and Richmond.
After the case, Inspector Jon Goosey, deputy police commander for Bracknell Forest, said: "The victim in this case is someone with learning difficulties.
"Sometimes people with disabilities are reluctant to report crime or abuse of any kind because they don't think the police will deal with it. This case shows we will pursue people who commit hate crime.
He added: "Our campaign - One Community: Stop Hate Crime Now - aims to give every member of our community confidence in the police, council and all our partners that we are there to help."
This initiative was launched by the police and Bracknell Forest Council in September and groups such as Be Heard, Bracknell Islamic Society and Mencap all signed a pledge to back those who are too scared to report crimes of this nature.
Simon Pettigrew, trustee at Be Heard - a self-advocacy group for the disabled - said: "The more we can raise the profile of hate crime and highlight instances of this nature, the better."
Richmond, of Kelvin Gate, Bracknell, admitted burglary and common assault. Combined with the activation of a suspended prison sentence for previous offences, he was jailed for one year and eight months.
Wilkins, of Coppice Green, admitted burglary and common assault, plus racially aggravated harassment against the victim's carer. He was jailed for two years and eight months.
Andrew Hobson, defending Wilkins and Richmond, said the pair were recovering from drug and alcohol addictions.
Lemon, from Rainforest Walk, denied burglary but was found guilty by a jury. He was jailed for a total of two years, for burglary and breaching a previous suspended sentence.
Sarah Selby, defending Lemon, said he had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress and depression.