Homophobic Hate Crimes Up In Durham

26 November 2014, 13:44 | Updated: 26 November 2014, 14:19

Some of the UK's biggest police forces, including Durham Constabulary, have recorded a rise in the number of violent homophobic crimes this year.

However, the number of these crimes being reported to Northumbria and Cleveland Police have slightly dropped.

Hundreds of assaults on gay and lesbian people have been reported to police across the country so far in 2014.

Durham Constabulary recorded eight violence against the person offences between January and December which were motivated by a person's sexual orientation. This compared to six offences last year and 12 in 2012.

Gay rights charities said that while it was ``encouraging'' that more people were reporting hate crime, many victims felt ``silenced'' by abuse on the street.

Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act revealed overall 17 police forces recorded more violence against the person offences which were classed as homophobic or motivated by a person's sexuality between January and October than the whole of last year.

Elsewhere, Northumbria Police recorded 16 violent homophobic crimes between January and October, compared with 18 in 2013 and 13 in 2012, and Cleveland Police recorded nine homophobic violence against the person offences in 2014, 15 in 2013 and eight in 2012.

Gay rights charity Stonewall warned that homophobic hate crime was ``a real issue in the UK'' and authorities must ``continue to take this type of vile abuse seriously''.

The charity's spokesman Richard Lane said:
``We believe that more and more victims and witnesses of homophobic attacks are building up the courage to speak to others and report these instances to the police.

``Hate crime is a key area of our work at Stonewall and our campaigns aim to not just encourage individuals to report attacks, but also for the police to try and make people feel more at ease with approaching them.

``We know, in the past, many have been hesitant to report crimes to the police for fear of the consequences.''

Nick Antjoule from Galop, the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) anti-violence charity, said:
``It's encouraging that more people feel able to talk to the police, though the vast majority of hate crime remains hidden.

``Each year the police record over 4,000 homophobic crimes, but that's dwarfed by the 39,000 homophobic crimes that happen every year in this country according to government estimates.

``Many of the people Galop support feel silenced by abuse on the street, harassment online or prejudice at home.

``Some of our clients put up with harassment for years before contacting us for help.''

Chief Constable Jane Sawyers, national policing lead for LGBT issues, said:
``Targeting someone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity is totally unacceptable.

``This abuse affects people's right to feel safe, secure and confident about themselves.

``Police forces across the UK are committed to reducing hate crime and improving services to victims.

``We know that homophobic hate crime disproportionately affects young people, who are amongst the most likely to suffer, but also to perpetrate hate crime.

``We are also aware that traditionally there has been under-reporting from the LGBT community.

``The police service has been working hard to ensure the community feels confident to come forward and report hate incidents. All such reports will be handled with professionalism and understanding.''