Figures from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) have shown a ten per cent rise in four years in the numbers of people being convicted for homophobic and transphobic hate crimes.
The CPS first began recording data on homophobic and transphobic crimes in 2005, although there is not separate data available for the two categories.
The statistics relate to cases where the CPS decided to prosecute. Fewer cases were referred to the CPS by police this year, compared to in 2007-8.
The overall conviction rate for all hate-based crimes was 82 per cent last year. For homophobic crimes, the figure was 81 per cent, a rise from 71 per cent in 2006-7.
Data for 2008-9 shows that the CPS decided to prosecute a defendant in 65 per cent of cases, a rise from 54 per cent in 2006-7.
The CPS admitted it had narrowly missed its target of reducing unsuccessful prosecutions for homophobic crimes by 1.5 per cent. The target was 18 per cent, although figures from the last quarter showed that 21 per cent of prosecutions had been unsuccessful.
According to the figures, 78 per cent of homophobic or transphobic hate crimes defendants were white British and 86 per cent were men.
Guilty pleas increased from 58 per cent to 67 per cent in the last four years.
Successful prosecutions for hate crimes on the grounds of race, religion and disability have also increased over the last four years.
Keir Starmer QC, Director of Public Prosecutions, said: “The CPS regards homophobic and transphobic crimes as particularly serious because they undermine people’s right to feel safe about, and be safe in, their sexual orientation. We are determined to play our part in bringing these offences to justice and supporting victims and witnesses.”
He added: “This report shows that our performance in prosecuting these cases has continuously improved over the past four years. However, we recognise that there is still room for improvement in the way we deal with homophobic and transphobic hate crime. For example, we want to do more to support victims of this type of crime and keep them engaged with cases.”
The Attorney General, Baroness Scotland QC, who oversees the CPS, said: “In its second year, the CPS report of all such crimes sends a clear message: that there is no hierarchy of hate crime – they are all equally corrosive to society and to victims.”
Gay charity Stonewall said it hoped the figures would encourage more victims to report homophobic crimes.
A spokesman said: “Stonewall has been working closely with the police, the criminal justice system and lesbian and gay people to ensure homophobic hate crimes are reported with more confidence.
“YouGov research for Stonewall last year found that one in five lesbian and gay people have experienced a homophobic hate crime or incident in the last three years. But three in four did not report them to the police – often because they did not think the police would or could do anything about it.
“We hope these findings will further encourage lesbian and gay people to report all homophobic hate crimes or incidents.”
Met police figures released this autumn showed an 18 per cent rise in reported homophobic crimes in the last year.
The data was released shortly after the killing of gay man Ian Baynham in Trafalgar Square. Three teenagers have been charged with his manslaughter.
Despite the shocking attack, police sought to reassure gays and lesbians that violent incidents were not rising.
Stonewall’s 2008 crime survey polled 1,700 gay, lesbian and bisexual people.
It found that one in five lesbian and gay people had experienced a homophobic hate crime or incident in the last three years, while one in eight had been a victim in the last year.
Three in four of those experiencing hate crimes or incidents did not report them to the police.
Only six per cent reported them to third parties.
Seven in ten did not report hate crimes or incidents to anyone.
One in six experiencing homophobic hate incidents in the last three years experienced a physical assault.
Eight per cent of all black and minority ethnic lesbian and gay people had experienced a physical assault as a homophobic hate incident, compared to four per cent of all lesbian and gay people.
One in six lesbian and gay people had been insulted and harassed in the last three years because they are gay.
One in eight lesbian and gay people experiencing homophobic hate incidents had experienced unwanted sexual contact as part of the incident.