Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, has told the House of Commons she may consider passing new laws creating an offence of homophobic hate crime.

She was responding to a question from Labour MP Chris Bryant, who is gay.

He drew attention to the murder of David Morley in October 2004.

The 44-year old barman who survived the 1999 nail bombing on the Admiral Duncan pub in Soho, was set upon on London’s South Bank, close to Parliament, by a gang of four people, one of them a teenage girl.

The gang filmed his ordeal on their mobile phones, and committed a series of assaults and robberies on eight random people around Waterloo on the same night.

During a debate on crime prevention, Mr Bryant made reference to the 40th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality, then asked the Home Secretary:

“Much has changed since then, but there are still many cases of homophobic violence and abuse. One young man was killed less than a mile from here; he was beaten to death by several young hooligans.

“A lot of gay-bashing goes on around the country, and there is evidence to suggest that many gay men are reluctant to report it to the police.

“My right hon. Friend has a substantial personal record on these issues. Will she consider completing it by introducing a specific offence of homophobic hate crime?”

Ms Smith, who has impressed many MPs of all sides with her performance as Britain’s first female Home Secretary, responded:

“Violence in any form is completely unacceptable, but when it is linked to the kind of hatred and bigotry that homophobic crime represents, it is even worse.

“A lot of good work is going on in police forces now, including the work that we are doing with them, to record and to tackle crimes with a homophobic element.

“We will certainly continue to think carefully about how and whether we need to change the nature of offences to reflect the seriousness of the situation.”

Mr Bryant commented:

“I would like to see the government introduce measures to bring about a specific offence of homophobic hate crime.

“This would allow victims of such crimes greater assurances that there is specific legislation designed to protect them and prosecute perpetrators.”

Gay equality organisation Stonewall welcomed the Home Secretary’s comments.

“We are glad that the government is looking at this issue,” Alan Wardle, head of public and parliamentary affairs, told PinkNews.co.uk

“All six candidates for Labour Deputy Leader said they would back such a law, which is why we want to amend the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill when it come before the House in the autumn.”

Last week, answering questions from PinkNews.co.uk readers, Prime Minister Gordon Brown emphasised the protections that already exist under the law.

“There is a range of legislation already in place to protect individuals from harm, including criminal harassment, verbal abuse and incitement to violence,” he said.

“We have brought the Serious Crime Bill before Parliament, including proposals to amend incitement law to make it easier to prove reckless encouragement of criminality.”