Home Secretary pledges action on homophobic hate crime

Tony Grew June 25, 2008
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Today’s report from Stonewall revealing the extent of abuse that many of Britain’s 3.6 million lesbian and gay people face has spurred the Home Secretary into action.

It has been revealed that as a result of the research, Jacqui Smith has told the Ministerial Action Group on Violence to address homophobic hate crime.

The Association of Chief Police Officers has said it is unacceptable that many victims of crimes motivated by their sexuality do not feel confident enough to report them.

“In the 21st century no one in Britain should ever feel under threat of verbal or physical violence just because of their sexual orientation,” said Home Secretary Jacqui Smith.

“We’re determined that lesbian and gay people should have the confidence to report crimes to the police knowing that they will be taken seriously, the crime investigated and their privacy respected.

“Our key priorities are to increase reporting; increase offences brought to justice and to tackle repeat victimisation and hotspots.”

The Stonewall research, the first statistically significant national survey of its kind, was conducted by pollsters YouGov.

Among its findings: one in five gay, lesbian and bisexual people have been a victim of one or more homophobic hate crimes in the last three years; three in four don’t report the incidents to the police, many believing that no action will follow.

A mere one per cent of all victims said that a hate crime or incident resulted in a conviction and two thirds of LGB people who did report incidents to the police were not offered or referred to advice or support services.

Mike Cunningham, the Deputy Chief Constable of Lancashire, speaks for the Association of Chief Police Officers on gay equality issues.

“It cannot be acceptable that a third of victims do not report incidents to the police because they do not think the police would, or could, do anything about it,” he said.

“Neither is it right that two thirds of those who reported incidents to the police were not offered or referred to advice or support services.

“The findings offer the service a real opportunity to make real improvements both in terms of how homophobic incidents are dealt with but also in terms of raising people’s confidence in reporting these incidents in the first place.”

The brutal murder of gay man Jody Dobrowski in June 2006 was a motivating factor in Stonewall pursuing this extensive survey, which was supported by the Home Office.

He was beaten to death on Clapham Common, a tragic and high-profile example of homophobic crime.

His mother Sheri, who has spoken up for gay people and against hate crimes many times since his death, said:

“Jody was not the first man to be killed, or terrorised, or beaten or humiliated for being homosexual – or for being perceived to be homosexual.

“Tragically, he will not be the last man to suffer the consequences of homophobia, which is endemic in this society.

“We cannot accept this. No intelligent, healthy or reasonable society could.”

Stonewall’s chief executive Ben Summerskill called the evidence from their survey, which 1,721 gay and lesbian people across Britain took part in, “a scar on the face of a modern nation.”

He welcomed the Home Secretary’s response to the report.

“We look forward to working with the criminal justice system to ensure homophobic hate crimes are reported with more confidence, and the perpetrators brought to justice,” he said.

In another sign of government support for the issue, Home Office minister Vernon Coaker has asked to attend the official launch of the report later today.

YouGov surveyed 1,721 gay and lesbian people across Britain between 29 February and 4 March.

The report recommends encouraging police to improve the recording of homophobic hate incidents and help lesbian and gay people to report them, tackling homophobic bullying in schools and the workplace in order to help reduce the likelihood of homophobic incidents on the streets.

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