Homophobic crime has risen in the West Midlands, according to new figures from the West Midlands Crown Prosecution Service.

However officials believe the rise is due to more people reporting hate crimes rather than more taking place. Jayne Salt, the West Midlands CPS homophobic crime co-ordinator, told the Birmingham Post: “There have been a growing number of crimes we’ve processed from March 2005-2006.”

“We are noticing an increasing number of cases. We hope it is an indication of greater confidence in the criminal justice system rather than increasing offences.”

She said hate crime was under-reported to police and prosecutions suffered from a larger than normal risk of collapse because gay people may fear retaliation and may not have come out.

Many of the cases Ms Salt handles involve lesbian and gay people being the target for abuse as they go into or come out of gay clubs. “The biggest problem really is encouraging people to report the incident in the first place, a lot of that goes back to the time when homosexuality was illegal,” she said.

“We can only do that by raising public confidence and building links with the gay community.”

Being aware of the heightened sensitivities around hate crimes is one way which Ms Salt thinks confidence in the system can be improved.

She added, “Treating people differently inadvertently or using the wrong terminology is one of the things we can avoid, for example some lesbians do not like to be called ‘gay’ whereas most homosexual men prefer to be called gay and not homosexual.

“The easiest way is just asking how they would like to be addressed.”