Transphobic hate crimes against transsexuals and transvestites in Northern Ireland will from today be recorded separately from other hate crimes to allow the police to gain a greater understanding of the challenges faced by members of the transgendered community. The Democratic Unionist party (DUP) has labelled the move as “political correctness gone mad.”

Until now, transphobic crime in the country have been included in the overall crime rates for homophobic, racist and sectarian offences which police claim has made it difficult to gauge the scale of the problem.

Welcoming the changes brought in by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) David McCartney, of the Rainbow Project, said: “Transphobia is something that is very, very real and experienced by transgender people on a daily basis.

“It can be only minor verbal abuse but it can have serious long-term implications for the health and welfare of the individual concerned.

“There are also many more serious incidents and it is extremely important that these are recorded.”

Mr McCartney called for greater levels of communication between the the PSNI and the country’s transgendered community.

PSNI Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde claims that hate crime remains the largest problem facing his force.

The service will now offer restorative cautioning which, if both parties are in agreement, would allow the perpetrators of hate crime to meet with their victims.

In the event of no one being charged or caution within 28 days of the reporting of a hate crime, a senior officer will now review the investigation.

Outgoing DUP Policing Board member Sammy Wilson said: “This is absolutely nonsensical. One way of ensuring that people think they are different is to record the crimes against them individually.

“Crime is crime and it should be dealt with in a uniform way. Why split it into lots of different categories like this? All it does is store up resentment from those people who are not part of the chosen group in a particular police plan or policy,” he said.

“A lot of this is just political correctness gone mad. A violent crime is a violent crime and there should be no differences recognised between them.”

There were 187 homophobic incidents in the second half of last year in Northern Ireland, 29 more than in the same period of 2004.