The head of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Paul Stephenson, has urged gays and lesbians to report homophobic crimes.
Speaking at a press briefing today, he admitted that the police had got it wrong in the past.
A Stonewall survey from last year found that three out of four lesbian and gay people who had been a victim of a hate crime did not report it to police.
Of these, a third said they felt police would not or could not do anything about the incident.
Figures released last week by the Metropolitan Police showed a 13.5 per cent rise in homophobic hate crimes reported across London.
Between June 2008 and the end of last month, 1,123 incidents were reported, compared with 989 the previous year.
Sir Paul said: “Part of that rise will be more confidence. Part of it will not.
“Stonewall has actually said part of this rise is [due] to people in the gay community having more faith.”
On criticisms that gay people will not report hate crimes for fear of not being taken seriously, he said: “Did we come from a position historically when we didn’t take hate crimes seriously across the board? Yes. But we take them much more seriously now. What our ambition is is to convince the community to tell us what is going on.
“Do I think hate crimes are still going unreported? Absolutely, absolutely.
“There has always been under-reporting of crime, particularly sex crime. We know there’s been massive under-reporting of that offence for many many years. And that’s because victims felt further victimised and traumatised not just by the criminal justice system but also the police. We have improved what we do dramatically.”
On the issue of tensions between the gay community and those of other cultures or faiths, he likened the problem to that of dealing with honour-killings
He said: It’s about dealing with a very sensitive issue, but remembering that we have a job to do. That’s how we’re going to deal with it – with sensitivity. But we won’t be backing off from what we’re supposed to be doing. My duty hasn’t changed in 34 years – I am here to serve and protect.
“Should we be clumsy about these things? No but we shouldn’t back off from doing them. It’s about what does the law say, what’s our duty and then doing it with as much appropriate sensitivity as we can.”