Disabled people are almost three and a half times more at risk of violent crime, research shows.

Charity Victim Support (VS) found that over the past decade violent crimes against people with a limiting disability or illness had increased by 3.7%.

It carried out detailed analysis of the Crime Survey for England and Wales which showed that over the same period, violent crime fell by 48% for the non-disabled population.

The findings, published in the VS Insight Report "An easy target? Risk factors affecting victimisation rates for violent crime and theft", also found that disabled people were twice as likely to suffer violence without injury.

They are also 1.6 times more likely to be a victim of personal theft, and 1.4 times more likely to be a victim of household theft, than adults without a limiting disability, the research revealed.

Lucy Hastings, director of VS said: "These findings are deeply alarming and warrant both further investigation and action.

"We recommend that further research is urgently undertaken, so that we can understand why the risk is so high and increasing, and how best to protect and support people with a limiting disability or illness.

"In the meantime, it is essential that professionals working with the disabled, including those working in health, social care and the justice system, are made aware of the increased risks to this group and know the sources of support and information available to them, should they fall victim to violence."

The report is the first in a series, investigating the demographics of victims of crime and the risk factors affecting rates of victimisation across the population.

Mark Atkinson chief executive at disability charity Scope, said the report had unveiled "an extremely alarming trend.

He added: "We urgently need to find out why disabled people are increasingly targeted by violent criminals, and what needs to change.

"In 21st-century Britain disabled people should be able to go about their lives without violence directed towards them."