Picture: 123RF/R FRANCA
Picture: 123RF/R FRANCA

London — On Thursday,  LGBT+ campaigners called for a public inquiry into why prosecutions for hate crime have plunged in Britain, despite a doubling of homophobic incidents in the past five years.

The number of hate crimes in Britain against the LGBT community grew by more than 130% between 2014/2015 and 2018/2019, according to a freedom of information request to British police forces by the BBC.

Figures show reported incidents grew from 5,807 to 13,530 over the period. The BBC report did not cover Scotland. However, the broadcaster’s investigation showed that the number of prosecutions had dropped proportionally from 20% of the overall number of hate crimes reported to just 8%.

“We’d like to see an investigation into why there has been this drop,” said Laura Russell, director of campaigns, policy and research at LGBT+ charity Stonewall. “It’s vital that we improve confidence in the way the criminal justice system deals with anti-LGBT crime. A crucial part of this is making sure perpetrators of these crimes are brought to justice.” 

All sorts of hate crimes are on the rise, according to UK home office statistics. Official figures reveal race-related incidents increased by 14% between 2016/2017 and 2017/2018. Religiously motivated hate crimes grew by 40% over the same period.

Russell’s call for an inquiry was echoed by Nick Antjoule, head of hate crime services at LGBT+ anti-violence charity Galop.

“There does need [to be] some sort of public inquiry,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Thursday. “When you look at the data, hate crime against LGBT+ people is far more likely to involve very serious violence than other forms of hate crime [against other minorities].”

Official police figures show a 27% increase in the number of reported hate crimes against LGBT+ people in Britain over the year to March 2018. The country has witnessed a rash of incidents over the past few months.

On Wednesday, a 13-year-old boy was arrested following an assault outside an LGBT+ youth club in Wales. In September, four teenagers were charged with hate crimes after a lesbian couple was attacked on a London bus in May. And in June, two actors from an award-winning LGBT+ play in the southern city of Southampton were attacked after the women kissed on the street.

A spokesperson for the national police chiefs’ council said many cases lacked witnesses and police were plagued by “scarce evidence”, hampering prospects for an arrest. “Police will investigate crime reports and will pursue action against those responsible where there is evidence to do so,” he added.

In a statement, Baroness Williams, Britain’s minister for countering extremism, said the perpetrators of hate crimes represented “the very worst of our society”, noting that authorities “across the criminal justice system and government are working hard to empower victims to report incidents and ensure perpetrators are punished”. 

Thomson Reuters Foundation