Police Scotland launch new initiative to crack down on homophobic hate crimes

Police Scotland and the Equality Network, a national charity focused on ensuring LGBTI equality, have vowed to work together to crack down on hate crime against LGBTI individuals. A specialty training programme will be delivered for over 60 officers around Scotland, announced the Equality Network in a recent Press Release.

This program aims to guide Police Scotland officers on what steps to take when hate crime against LGBTI individuals occurs and to know how to support victims if it does. It also aims is to increase public confidence in police.

The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service staff will also be trained, while LGBT Youth Scotland, Scotland’s national charity working with LGBT individuals between the ages of 13-25, is initiating a programme across schools to support children and teachers to address homophobic, bi-phobic and trans-phobic bullying.

The initiatives listed are part of the National LGBT Hate Crime Partnership which brings together 35 LGBTI organisations from across Scotland, England and Wales.

The partnership is led by the LGBT Consortium on behalf of the Equality and Human Rights Commission and seeks to facilitate a common platform for reporting LGBTI hate crime. The partnership will focus their efforts on expanding existing mechanisms by building capacity and capability within existing services.

Although the work is nationally coordinated, it will primarily be delivered at the local level. This ensures that the program will be capable of responding to local needs and environments.

In a Police Scotland press release, Superintendent Davie Duncan of Police Scotland’s Safer Communities Department said: “Research and studies show hate crime against the LGBTI community is often under reported. We hope that these specially trained officers will encourage more LGBTI people to come forward with the confidence in Police Scotland to help reverse this trend.”

Supt Duncan added: “If anyone feels they have been the victim of, or witness to, a crime which is motivated by malice or ill will because of sexual orientation or gender identity they should report it to us directly, online or through a Third Party Reporting site.

“We take all such reports very seriously and will conduct thorough investigations to ensure perpetrators are brought to justice.”

In the Press Release, Scott Cuthbertson of the Equality Network said: “We know too many LGBTI people are the victims of hate crime, but we also know that many, for whatever reason, still do not report hate crimes. We want to change that.

“That’s why we are pleased to be working so closely with Police Scotland, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service and other criminal justice agencies to provide training on LGBTI issues and to work together to remove the barriers to reporting a hate crime”, the release continued.

Fergus McMillan, Chief Executive of LGBT Youth Scotland added: “LGBT Youth Scotland’s recent safety report highlighted that around half of all LGBT respondents would not feel confident reporting a crime to the police, and only 50% said that they were aware of what their rights are under hate crime legislation.

“We are currently working with a range of partners, including Equality Network, to increase the reporting of homophobic, bi-phobic and trans-phobic hate crimes and incidents and improve the support available to those targeted.”

BBC News reported in 2015 that home office statistics from 2014-2015 revealed a 18 per cent rise in hate crime in England and Wales. There were 52,528 crimes reported compared to 44,471 reported in 2013-2014.

Additionally, a recent report by the Equality Network found that nearly half of LGBTI respondents had experienced or witnessed prejudice or discrimination in the past month, rising to 79 per cent within the past year and 97 per cent within their lifetimes.

Although these figures seem shocking, it is significant to note that the actual statistics are likely even higher as a result of LGBTI hate crime being so largely under-reported.

Alastair Pringle, director of EHRC Scotland, stated in the Equality Network Press Release: “The training programme is a welcome step in tackling hate crime and will hopefully increase people’s confidence in the police to recognise and report it. This is the kind of excellent work which will contribute to reaching our goal of making Scotland fairer for everyone.”

Image credit: Brandon Anderson

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