Homophobic hate crime reported in Derbyshire is ‘tip of the iceberg’

Incidients of LGBT hate crime have risen in the last year. Photo: PA/Daniel Leal-Olivas
Incidients of LGBT hate crime have risen in the last year. Photo: PA/Daniel Leal-Olivas

There were 84 incidents of homophobic hate crime reported to Derbyshire Police in 2017-18, however a charity has warned this is “the tip of an iceberg”.

The latest Home Office figures show the number of hate crimes recorded by the police between April 2017 to March 2018.

In Derbyshire there were 84 incidents where gay, lesbian or bisexual people were abused or attacked due to their identity, rising from 66 in 2016-17.

However, the charity Stonewall, which campaigns on LGBT issues, believes this is just a fraction of the true number of homosexual people who have experienced hate crime.

Laura Russell, head of policy at the charity, said: “No lesbian, gay, bi or trans person should have to experience homophobic, biphobic or transphobic abuse. These statistics are a wake-up call.

“While some may suggest this rise is due to increased confidence in reporting, we fear these represent the tip of the iceberg in hate crimes against LGBT people.”

The Home Office said it believes these rises are due to improved reporting, and do not necessarily genuine increases in hate crime.

Ms Russell continued: “From our research into hate crime, we know underreporting is still a major issue with four in five anti-LGBT hate crimes and incidents going unreported, with younger LGBT people particularly reluctant to go to the police.”

The Home Office figures show that over the same period there were 10 incidents of transgender hate crime reported to Derbyshire Police.

Stonewall’s research, carried out by YouGov, shows that trans people are more than twice as likely to experience hate crime as other members of the LGBT community.

Ms Russell added: “Although data from the Crown Prosecution Services shows that referrals are still low, there has been an increase in sentencing which is good to see.”

In Derbyshire, the total number of recorded hate crime has increased by 32% over the last five years.

This is partly because of improvements in the way crimes are recorded, but there have been spikes after events such as the Brexit referendum and the terrorist attacks.

The majority of hate crimes, reported to Derbyshire Police, were racist incidents. The figure increased by 20% compared with the previous year, with 562 cases recorded by officers in 2017-18.

Hate crimes are defined as those perceived to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a personal characteristic.

Five strands are collated in this data: race or ethnicity; religion or beliefs; sexual orientation; disability; and transgender identity.

Ahead of the release of the statistics, the Government published a refreshed strategy for tackling hate crime.

The Law Commission will carry out a review to explore how to make current legislation more effective and consider if there should be additional “protected characteristics” to cover offences motivated by, or demonstrating, hatred based on sex and gender characteristics, or hatred of older people.

Stonewall said it was “enormously encouraging” that hate crime laws were being reviewed.

“Currently, crimes based on sexual orientation, gender identity and disability are not treated equally to those based on race and faith,” Ms Russell explained.

“This has to change. We’re also pleased to see plans to develop police force training so officers are better able to ensure hate crimes, including those based on anti-LGBT views, are handled sensitively and are also properly recorded and monitored.

“This will help improve the confidence in the way the criminal justice system deals with LGBT hate crime.”