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LGBT hate crimes up sharply since lockdown, figures show

Homophobic and transphobic hate crime recorded by forces rose sharply after lockdown restrictions were eased, new figures show.

At least 14,670 homophobic hate crime offences were recorded from January to August 2021, compared with 11,841 in the same period of 2020.

While offences averaged 1,456 a month from January to April this year, they jumped to 2,211 on average from May to August.

Some 2,129 transphobic offences were recorded in January to August this year – well above the equivalent period in 2020 (1,606) - and averaged 208 a month from January to April and then 324 for May to August.

The figures were obtained by the PA news agency, based on freedom of information responses from 37 of 46 forces.

Full data was either not supplied or not available for Cheshire, Cleveland, Dyfed-Powys, Hampshire, Merseyside, North Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, Thames Valley, West Mercia and the Police Service for Northern Ireland.

At least 6,985 homophobic hate crimes classed as violence against the person were recorded from January-August 2021 – close to the 2020 total (7,944).

Violent transphobic crimes are also on course to exceed previous years, with at least 1,207 recorded to August 2021 compared with 1,354 for all of 2020 respectively.

Restrictions were eased in stages after the first three months of 2021, with almost all lifted by the end of June – the month that saw the highest volume of homophobic (2,389) and transphobic (371) offences for any calendar month across the past three years.

Organisations said more research is needed but some reasons for the rise could be more opportunities to report offences as restrictions loosened, an increased number of people being out and about, and the reopening of the night-time economy.

Forces said increases in hate crime can reflect improvements in how they are recorded and greater public awareness of how to report offences.

But Eloise Stonborough, the charity Stonewall’s associate director of policy and research, said the figures are unlikely to present the full picture due to under-reporting, and that it is vital hate crimes are properly recorded and prosecuted.

She said: “LGBTQ+ people have struggled throughout the pandemic, with many not having access to vital support networks and spaces during lockdowns.

“It’s always worrying to see an increase in anti-LGBTQ+ hate crime, particularly at a time when our communities were more isolated than ever.”

Deputy Chief Constable Mark Hamilton, the NPCC lead for hate crime, said: “We will always pursue action against perpetrators of hate crime where there is the evidence to do so.

“The public will understand that we must prioritise our finite resources towards those who face the most imminent threats of harm.

“Unfortunately, sometimes the evidence is scarce and there are no witnesses to the crime.

“Particularly in recent years, and with more people moving their abuse online due to pandemic restrictions, it may be the case that a suspect cannot be identified because of anonymity online, and a charge cannot be brought.”

Leni Morris, chief executive of Galop, the LGBT+ anti-abuse charity, said it launched its hate crime helpline in February 2021 “because we saw a real impact on the community from the pandemic itself”.

She said same-sex couples were more visible when out in public during periods of restrictions, and others faced “escalating violence” when locked down with homophobic or transphobic neighbours.

She told PA: “What we saw in the pandemic was LGBT+ people experiencing forms of abuse and violence that were either exacerbated by the pandemic itself or caused by it.

“We have some people who were victims of abuse and attacks because of being blamed for the pandemic itself, either because perpetrators thought the pandemic was an act of God – because of the existence of LGBT+ people – or because of the community’s association with the last major pandemic in people’s minds, and that’s the HIV Aids pandemic.”

Figures from January to August 2021:

Force

Homophobic Hate Crimes

Transphobic Hate Crimes

Avon and Somerset

412

61

Bedfordshire

132

14

BTP

436

320

Cambridgeshire

143

17

City of London

12

1

Cumbria

97

22

Derbyshire

168

35

Devon and Cornwall

324

55

Dorset

100

12

Durham

48

6

Essex

446

85

Gloucestershire

118

11

Greater Manchester

1,436

181

Gwent

120

28

Hertfordshire

160

30

Humberside

239

41

Kent

538

126

Lancashire

346

62

Leicestershire

340

39

Lincolnshire              

113

14

Metropolitan

2,275

251

Norfolk

179

51

North Wales

144

34

Northamptonshire

168

11

Northumbria

438

84

Police Scotland

1,172

87

South Wales             

855

141

South Yorkshire

461

64

Staffordshire

173

33

Suffolk

125

27

Surrey

211

62

Sussex

398

62

Warwickshire

122

18

West Midlands

1,047

124

West Yorkshire

992

176

Wiltshire

113

13

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