Gay hate crime a bigger problem than figures suggest

10/05/2009

Gay hate crime across the North East is far more widespread than official figures suggest.

Victims suffering verbal abuse or physical assault are often reluctant to report it, fearing their complaint may not be taken seriously and no-one will be prosecuted.

A unique one-day event staged this month pushed home the message that crime committed against a person because of their sexuality is not being tolerated and every effort will be made to bring offenders to justice.

Members of the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender communities were invited to attend Confidence 2009, organised by the County Durham and Darlington Criminal Justice Board.

Keynote speakers included Durham's Chief Crown Prosecutor Chris Enzor and Durham's Chief Constable Jon Stoddart.

The event explored the way crimes against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities can be reported, the support available to both victims and witnesses, and how the criminal justice system operates.

Chris Enzor said: "It is extremely difficult to paint a true picture of how prevalent transphobic and homophobic hate crime is across the North East. However, we do know that victims can be reluctant to come forward and that crimes where people are targeted because of their sexual orientation are far more widespread than the figures suggest.

"We would be careless to ignore that there is a cynicism attached to the criminal justice system within the LGBT communities, a view that these crimes aren't taken seriously. At this event, we want to send out a very clear message that hate crime will not be tolerated and where possible, justice will be done.

Emma Roebuck, Criminal Justice Worker with Gay Advice Darlington and Durham added: "Less than fifteen per cent of victims of homophobic and transphobic hate crime report the incidents. There are many reasons for this, such as a mistrust of the system, fear of not being believed, and a historic poor relationship with a historically distant set of agencies.

"This event provided an opportunity to begin breaking down barriers with a marginalised group of communities and build bridges so mistrust can be transformed to confidence and to help people believe that the Criminal Justice Services can be of genuine help to the victims of some horrendous crimes."