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Blind woman hits back at bullies who "nearly destroyed me"

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A blind woman who was persecuted by a gang of bullies fought back by filming them with a body camera and handing the incriminating footage to police.

Siobhan Meade, 30, was targeted by the youths after she moved from Norfolk to the Hertfordshire town of Stevenage last year.

"[It] ranged from being sworn at in the street, young people circling me and deliberately walking me into lampposts and nearly being mugged," she told BBC News.

"They actually said 'let's mug her and see how much she can see'... I was horrified.

"It was extremely distressing and it nearly destroyed me as a person... It was intimidating beyond belief."

Meade was born partially sighted and lost her vision completely aged 16.

She launched a respect campaign to combat the abuse after it began late last year and received support from residents of Stevenage, who were horrified by her treatment at the hands of the bullies.

"Everyone who has read my story has been both shocked and disgusted by it," she told thecomet.net earlier this year.

"They have told me that nobody should have to go through this. The majority of the public have been totally and utterly appalled and are right behind me."

Siobhan Meade with her guide dog Mac, photo courtesy of thecomet.net

However, her respect campaign did not go far enough in stopping the gang and eventually she arranged to film the perpetrators as "a last resort".

Meade used her own initiative to approach UK-based video companies and ask for a body-worn camera she could try out.

She then gave the film to police, who contacted the culprits. The abuse then stopped for the most part and Meade no longer felt the need to wear a camera.

"You get the odd silly comment but nothing to the extent it was," she said.

She added that officers had been "so supportive and given me lots of reassurance".

Hertfordshire Police said hate crime was "under-reported for many reasons" and encouraged victims to come forward.

"We are committed to ensuring people with disabilities have increased support and opportunity to report incidents in a safe and secure environment, either to the police or via a third party," a spokesman said.

It's not the first time Meade, a journalist, has campaigned for the rights of people with disabilities. In 2012 she rallied against cuts to the disability living allowance pushed through as part of the coalition government's sweeping benefit reforms.

See more about Meade's campaigns in the video below or on her Twitter feed.

Siobhan campaigns against cuts to disability benefits in a video posted on YouTube in 2012:

Words: Anna Brech, Photos: Twitter and thecomet.net

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