Dozens of homophobic hate crimes are being reported to Northamptonshire Police every year - but campaign charity Stonewall says these are just the ‘tip of the iceberg’.
The force recorded 68 incidents of hate crimes where gay, lesbian, or bisexual people were attacked or abused because of their sexuality between April 2017 and March 2018
The figure had fallen slightly from 77 in 2016-17 but 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.
“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 Northamptonshire 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 Northamptonshire, the total number of recorded hate crime has increased by 62% over the last five years.
The majority of hate crimes, reported to Northamptonshire Police, were racist incidents. The figure increased by 39% compared with the previous year, with 591 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.
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.”