UK

Couple’s ‘fresh start’ turns nightmare after being ‘abused’ by ‘homophobic’ gang

Josh Milton March 15, 2022
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Kieran (L) and Steven Douglas-Lane in puffer jackets standing in the forest

Kieran (L) and Steven Douglas-Lane were targeted by young teens on the way home from the grocery. (Supplied)

A gay couple is considering fleeing their new town after a gang of teens targeted them in what is being investigated as a hate crime.

Kieran and Steven Douglas-Lane hoped to get a fresh start after moving from Liverpool to Dudley in the West Midlands. Instead, Kieran told PinkNews, “our new start turned out to be a horror”.

The married couple were walking home from a supermarket on Birmingham Road when they say they were “met with a barrage of homophobic abuse” from three teenagers on electric scooters.

The teens followed them all the way home, threatening to “light fireworks” in their letterbox. In video footage seen by PinkNews, the teens, disguising their faces with balaclavas, can be seen lobbing rocks at the couple’s front window.

West Midlands Police confirmed that the incident is being investigated as a hate crime.

Kieran (L) and Steven Douglas-Lane. (Supplied)

The pair said they left Tesco Superstore on Birmingham Road at 3.55pm Sunday (13 March).

“Next thing you know,” Kieran told PinkNews, “these three teenage boys whizzed past us on electric scooters.

“We were met with a barrage of homophobic abuse, f****t, b****y boy, every kind of homophobic slur that you’ve ever heard.”

The couple say they were followed for 10 minutes, until they reached their home. Even though they live on a busy main road, and were in broad daylight, the teens “just didn’t care,” Kieran said.

“They shouted our address to make sure we knew they knew it,” he added. “Then they encroached on the driveway, came straight to the door and began screaming slurs.”

This ordeal went on for 20 minutes, with police attending. What has stayed with Kieran and Steven perhaps most was an off-the-cuff remark they say came from an officer: “Because they’re young, they’ll probably forget about you and move on to someone else.”

Kieran says such sentiment misses the point entirely. “It’s not like it’s all fine or dandy, what if there was a younger kid who was discovering themselves?”

Gay couple received ‘barrage’ of abuse on social media

Kieran uploaded footage of the incident to Facebook and Instagram, only for the posts to become magnets for even more hostility.

“The barrage continued,” he said, reporting that one user asked him to not “shove it in everyone’s faces”.

“You probably fancy them,” one troll commented.

The posts were taken down for “violating” Facebook and Instagram’s community guidelines, according to screenshots shared to PinkNews.

Two TikToks videos from anonymous accounts have since emerged callously bashing the Douglas-Lanes as “paedophiles”, which Kieran fears will put his dreams of teaching in jeopardy.

A spokesperson for West Midlands Police said the force is investigating the incident.

“It’s understood a group of youngsters followed two men from a shop on Birmingham Road at around 4pm, shouting abuse,” the representative said.

“Objects including stones were also thrown at the home but thankfully no one was injured and no damage reported.

“Officers attended and the victims have told us this was a hate crime and offensive homophobic language was used.

“We will not tolerate hate crime and this type of offence, especially at someone’s home, is totally unacceptable.

“Anyone with information can contact us via Live Chat at west-midlands.police.uk, quoting investigation 20/272284/22, or call 101.

“If you’d prefer to tell us what you know, not who you are, call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”

The couple had only moved to Dudley last month. Now feeling “disheartened”, they are considering moving altogether.

“We moved down here for a better life because my partner got a promotion,” Kieran said, adding that they even considered buying the house they’re renting. “He had to really convince me to move away from Liverpool.

“What ended up being our new start turned out to be a horror.”

“We really love [Dudley],” Kieran added, “but when you get threatened to have fireworks through the letterbox just because of who you love, it’s not something that keeps you in an area.”

Even as public attitudes towards LGBT+ people have shifted for the better, harassment and violence against the community have spiked year on year across the UK.

Between 2020 and 2021, there were 19,679 crimes motivated by hatred for someone’s sexual orientation recorded, according to figures across 45 police forces. 

Of the 45 forces, just 10 recorded a decrease in hate crimes. In 2018, West Midlands Police recorded 530 anti-LGBT+ hate crimes. By 2021, this more than doubled to 1,463.

These statistics do not capture the full extent of the problem, with nine out of 10 LGBT+ victims not reporting hate crimes to the police, according to government figures.

More: Hate crime

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