Eight out of 10 people who experienced homophobic discrimination in Northern Ireland do not report the crime, a report by the Northern Ireland Equality Commision revealed.

Michael Wardlow, chief commissioner said that 44% of the LGBT community were not aware of the way that the law can help protect them against intolerance and discrimination.

“The highest level of negativity was reserved for the smaller minority of people who struggle with their gender identity – trans people. Everyone has the same rights under our equality and hate crime laws to lead a life free from discrimination, abuse or harassment. But prejudice is still rife,” said Mr Wardlow.

Mr Wardlow added: “We have already recognised the need to take special measures to address under-reporting of sexual orientation discrimination here in Northern Ireland. We recently launched a new suite of digital resources for the LGB community under the SoMe (Sexual orientation More equality) brand.

“We recognise the particular sensitivities around dealing with discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.

“We know that we need to make particular efforts to reach out to LGBT individuals who may feel that they are totally alone and that they have no recourse against unfair treatment. These are the people who could really benefit from our staff’s advice, support and experience. Individuals can be reassured of receiving a confidential and supportive response when they seek our help.”

246 homophobic incidents were reported to the Police Service of Northern Ireland in the last year, a 23% rise on the previous year.

Transphobic crimes doubled during the past year, although from a very low base in the previous year from three to six.