The mother of murdered gay barman Jody Dobrowski praised ‘courageous’ and ‘unashamed’ openly gay and lesbian people after being named Stonewall Hero of the Year at the charity’s inaugural awards ceremony last night.

Sheri Dobrowski picked up the award at the Royal Academy of Arts after being singled out for her bravery and the way she has spoken out against homophobia since her son’s killers were sentenced to 28 years in prison last June.

Collecting the award to a standing ovation from host Sir Ian McKellen, Ms Dobrowski, said: “I would like to pay tribute to real heroes, men and women who have courage and integrity to take risks to stand up unashamed of who they are.”

She thanked Stonewall for “preparing the way for my children to grow up in a more equal society.”

Sponsored by Barclays, the awards celebrate the positive contributions made by individuals and organisations – both gay and straight – to the lives of gay people in Britain.

Three awards – for Hero, Bully and Community Group of the Year – were voted for by Stonewall supporters from across Britain. The other award-winners were selected by a judging panel including actor Simon Callow and author Stella Duffy.

The winners included PinkNews.co.uk for Publication of the Year; Sarah Waters, Booker Prize nominee for her book ‘The Night Watch’ won Writer of the Year; Employer of the Year went to Staffordshire Police while the Mail on Sunday’s Jonathan Oliver was named Journalist of The Year.

PinkNews.co.uk Online Editor Marc Shoffman praised the site’s founder Benjamin Cohen and called on the community to help continue the fight for “equality, justice and fair representation.”

PinkNews.co.uk Online Editor Marc Shoffman and Deputy Editor Torsten Hojer.

Sarah Waters

[i]Staffordshire Police Chief Constable David Swift receives the award from Sir Ian McKellen

In categories voted by Stonewall supporters, Bully of the Year went to Radio1 DJ Chris Moyles, Hero was Ms Dobrowski and the Albert Kennedy Trust was named as Community Group of the Year.

In other awards, Channel 4 drama Sugar Rush received Broadcast of the Year, Torchwood star John Barrowman was named Entertainer of the Year and Baroness Ashton, Constitutional Affairs Minister, received the award for Politician of the Year.

Sugar Rush’s Olivia Hallinan and Lenora Crichlow

Baroness Ashton with Marc Shoffman and PinkNews.co.uk founder Benjamin Cohen

Barrowman could not attend the evening, but sent a letter which said: “Thank you for this honour. It means a great deal to me to be recognised by my community and peers. Congratulations to the other nominees.

“We are the few who are proud of who we are and not afraid to talk about it. We are proof that you can be honest and have a great career. I hope others can live by this example.”

Baroness Cathy Ashton, used her acceptance speech to praise Stonewall, she said: “I’m grateful to Stonewall for their help in difficult times in getting legislation through the House of Lords. This award means more to me than you can imagine.”

Sir Ian, one of Stonewall’s founders, used the evening to describe the early days of the group and praised the fact that there are so many gay, lesbian and gay friendly nominees to choose from nowadays.

Ben Summerskill, Stonewall chief executive, said: “We’re proud to mark the positive and wide ranging work being done by our award-winners for gay people. We’ll always point out those who try, unsuccessfully, to demean us. But we’re much keener to highlight the efforts of those making a positive effort to support gay equality”.

Photography Adam Tayler