Scotland’s police force has ramped up its commitment to tacking anti-LGBT hate crime.
LGBTI charity the Equality Network is collaborating with Police Scotland to deliver a training programme for police at locations around the country – aimed at helping police support victims of hate crime, and increasing public confidence in police.
The more than 60 new LGBT Liaison Officers are intended to be the hub of a network across Scotland, that is accessible to the local LGBT and intersex communities.
Superintendent Jim Baird of Police Scotland’s Safer Communities Department said: “Tackling hate crime is a priority for Police Scotland. We are delighted to have worked with the Equality Network.
“Research and studies show hate crime against the LGBTI community is often under reported.
“We hope that these specially trained officers will encourage more LGBTI people to come forward with the confidence in Police Scotland to help reverse this trend.”
Supt Baird added: “If anyone feels they have been the victim of, or witness to, a crime which is motivated by malice or ill will because of sexual orientation or gender identity they should report it to us directly, online or through a Third Party Reporting site.
“We take all such reports very seriously and will conduct thorough investigations to ensure perpetrators are brought to justice.”
Scott Cuthbertson of the Equality Network added: “We know too many LGBTI people are the victims of hate crime, but we also know that many, for whatever reason, still do not report hate crimes. We want to change that.
“That’s why we are pleased to be working so closely with Police Scotland, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service and other criminal justice agencies to provide training on LGBTI issues and to work together to remove the barriers to reporting a hate crime.”
It comes as LGBT Youth Scotland rolls out a programme across schools in Scotland to support children and teachers to address homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying.
Fergus McMillan, Chief Executive of LGBT Youth Scotland said: “More must be done to ensure that LGBTI people feel safe in their communities, understand their rights and how to report discrimination and harassment, and have the confidence to report.
“Despite strong legislation in Scotland, harassment, verbal abuse and violent crime is still a reality for many LGBTI people. The majority of it does not get reported to the police.
“LGBT Youth Scotland’s recent safety report highlighted that around half of all LGBT respondents would not feel confident reporting a crime to the police, and only 50% said that they were aware of what their rights are under hate crime legislation.
“We are currently working with a range of partners, including Equality Network, to increase the reporting of homophobic, biphobic and transphobic hate crimes and incidents and improve the support available to those targeted.”
The initiatives are part of the National LGBT Hate Crime Partnership which brings together 35 LGBT organisations from across England, Wales and Scotland, and is being delivered on behalf of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), and led by the LGBT Consortium
Alastair Pringle, director of EHRC Scotland, said, “While attitudes towards the Scottish LGBTI community have undoubtedly improved over the years, our recent report into the state of equalities in Scotland, Is Scotland Fairer, shows that hate crime is still a serious issue.
“The training programme is a welcome step in tackling hate crime and will hopefully increase people’s confidence in the police to recognise and report it. This is the kind of excellent work which will contribute to reaching our goal of making Scotland fairer for everyone.”