Comment: Why anti-gay hate crime must come out
Angela Shine writes on why it is important for anti-LGBT hate crimes to be reported, reflecting on a specific example, and says she hopes recent events will lead to a reduction in hate crime.
“If you touch it again, you’re gay” – a 16-year-old’s accusing words that seem to have the makings of an insult. However, does it mask something far more sinister?
An estimated 5-7% of the population in the UK, are lesbians, gay men and bisexuals. Stonewall, the representative charity, have produced a report that states that one in six people within these categories have experienced some type of hate crime or incident in the last three years plus one in ten victims have experienced some kind of physical assault.
In Norwich, just two days before Christmas; joint male publicans of the Kings Pub, David Hayes, 26, and Jesse Charlebois, 34, were brutally attacked by 15 men after serving them one drink each and then politely asking the boisterous group to leave. The attack by a group of white males in their 20s and 30s was captured on CCTV.
Mr Charlebois had asked them to stop wrecking decorations and messing up festive scenes inside the pub. He said “I asked them, shall we just behave like gentlemen? I felt two of the men close in behind me so I said, Look boys, it’s time for you to go.” One of them replied “You listen to me, we are going to teach you some f*cking respect, you f*cking faggot.”
Mr Charlebois was then pushed to the ground by five or six of the men and kicked repeatedly in the head and neck. Mr. Hayes, who was beside his partner, was grabbed by the hair and suffered concussion and bruises. Their chef, Andy Watt, who came to assist, was also attacked.
Mr Charlebois spoke about how the men had targeted them after realising they were gay. The incident was immediately reported to the Police. “The Police were excellent, they sat us down, took all the witness statements.”
Within Stonewall’s report entitled ‘Homophobic Hate Crime’ is the revelation that more than three quarters of victims (78%) did NOT report what they had experienced to the Police and two thirds did not report it to anyone. These include taunts, on-line abuse, sexual assaults and doorstep dog fouling amongst others. It goes on to identify that 31 per cent of those who experienced a hate crime or incident did not report it because they didn’t think the Police could or would do anything and 28 per cent said they didn’t think it would be taken seriously.
UKstopgaybullying’s Facebook page has over 1900 followers. A spokesperson said “The key word needed for the reporting of a Hate Crime and Hate incident is ‘Perceived’, how the person of the given community ‘Perceives’ an abuse has taken place.”
The joint ONS and Home Office Overview of Hate Crime report was released in December and shows hard facts on sexual orientation hate crimes in 2012/13. The Police recorded 4,267 compared with 4,362 the previous year (a fall of 2%). However, using Stonewall’s 2013 research which highlights the 78% that DON’T get reported, that homophobic hate crime figure could actually be as high as 19,395.
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Pink News Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Benjamin Cohen said “A lot of things don’t get told to the police, but they are trying to make themselves more accessible to LGBT people by having a Liaison Officer within each different borough.”
A Scotland Yard spokesman said “We are aware that under-reporting of all types of hate crime remains a significant issue and we work with a number of third party reporting sites.”Mr. Hayes and Mr. Charlebois are now back behind the bar after messages of support from all over the world and thousands of hits on Facebook. The pair have been Norwich pub landlords for just 4 months and are aware it could have been much worse. Mr. Charlebois said “We really appreciate people being so supportive but also really shocked by what happened.”
They intend to create an anti-homophobia party-style event, once a month, at the Kings pub, ironically calling it a ‘Gay Bash’ and launching in February 2014. Supported by Norwich Gay Pride amongst others, he describes it as a “Night of unity for everyone.”
Norwich Police have now confirmed four arrests in the case adding “The investigation is still ongoing.” Meanwhile, the College of Policing have taken positive steps to engage with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community creating a short film for International Day against Homophobia; featuring 36 LGBT police officers and staff in their service. They hope it will help break down barriers, create trust and encourage confidence in Police officers.
In an era of mixed messages from legislation around the globe, the world’s stage has played out some very tough scenes lately for people in same-sex relationships; let’s hope this goes some way to reducing homophobic hate crime which is just… so gay.