Current Affairs

Home Office targets homophobic crime

Marc Shoffman December 29, 2006
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New ways to tackle homophobic hate crime and help make gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual people (LGBT) feel safer has been published by the Home Office today.

“Tackling Homophobic Hate Crime” highlights good practice from around England and Wales, and stresses the best way for crime reduction agencies, including the police, to do more to crackdown on crime motivated by prejudice or hate.

It states agencies that are part of Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships should encourage more victims and witnesses to come forward to report homophobic hate crime; improve the response of the criminal justice system; increase confidence in the criminal justice system so that people feel they can report homophobic hate crime; improve data sharing; and tackle repeated victimisation.

The guidance features previously effective examples of tackling hate crime through raising awareness, encouraging victims to report crimes and tools, such as fixed penalty notices and penalty notices for disorder, which police and other partners can use to tackle this form of hate crime.

It also highlights the importance of teaching against homophobic bullying in schools, a suggestion already described as too “politically correct” by Conservative MP Philip Davies.

Home Office Minister Tony McNulty said: “Any form of crime motivated by prejudice or hate is unacceptable. People who commit homophobic crime need to know their prejudices and actions will be tackled. This guidance demonstrates our determination to deal with this vile crime that can spread fear among communities that can endure prejudice.

“We know that hate crime can get worse if it goes unchallenged. That is why gay people need to feel they can come forward to the police. Tackling hate crime can nip other forms of criminal behaviour in the bud.

“Overall crime, including violent crime, is stable while the risk of being a crime victim is at its lowest in 25 years. We have made great strides in improving community safety in recent years and want to build on that success.”

There were over 1,000 homophobic incidents in London alone in 2005, but police estimate that around 90 per cent of hate crime is not reported. Hate crime is defined as any criminal incident which is seen by the victim as being motivated by prejudice or hatred of a particular community. Targeted robbery and blackmail are included in this definition.

“Tackling Homophobic Hate Crime” features excellent examples of practice from around the country. For example Lancashire Police set a helpline, advertised in lesbian and gay venues and hotels, called the Blue Phone, which allowed victims and witnesses to report homophobic hate crime.

Alan Wardle, Director of Public Affairs at Stonewall, said: “Stonewall welcomes this guidance from the Home Office. It’s vital that police forces work with their local lesbian and gay communities to tackle homophobic crime and encourage more people to report them.”

Michael Cunningham, the LGBT lead at the Association of Chief Police Officers, and Assistant Chief Constable at Lancashire Police, said: “The police service welcomes this guidance which builds on existing good practice and which will help us to tackle homophobic hate crime. Criminals who are motivated by bigotry and prejudice have to be met head on and victims of prejudice and bigotry have to be supported. The implementation of this guidance will assist in bringing offenders to justice and making individuals and communities feel safer.”

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