The majority of homophobic hate crimes in Northern Ireland are not reported to police despite appeals for victims to come forward, a major survey on the issue revealed today.
The survey of more than 1,000 people compiled by the Rainbow Project found that 64% of homophobic incidents in the last three years were not reported.
The study was commissioned by the police and while gay rights campaigners recognised the efforts of officers to reach out to the Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual (LGB) community, they said more work needed to be done.
The Rainbow Project Equality Officer John O'Doherty, who carried out the research, said: "Hate crime has a devastating effect on victims, those who fear being victim and on society in general.
"The PSNI have made substantial progress in gaining the co-operation of the LGB community and improving perceptions of the PSNI.
"However, there are still high levels of homophobic hate crime throughout Northern Ireland and low levels of reporting."
The research was carried out between January and March 2009 and surveyed 1,124 lesbian, gay and bisexual people.
It was the largest response to any research covering LGB issues in Northern Ireland.
The report entitled Through Our Eyes included the findings:
- 39% of LGB people are worried about being a victim of crime
- 39% alter their behaviour to avoid others knowing they are not heterosexual
- 21% of gay and bisexual males, and 18% of females have suffered homophobic attacks in the last three years
- 64% of homophobic incidents go unreported
- Over half of LGB people believe the police are professional and helpful, but 21% have experienced problems with police.
The report recommended that greater efforts be made by police and other agencies to ensure homophobic crime is reported, with the promotion of online or third party reporting.
And it called for police training and protocols to be shaped to enhance the service to communities in all police districts across Northern Ireland.
Mr O'Doherty said: "Some innovative new systems and structures have been implemented to improve reporting but these don't seem to have been followed through with pro-active promotion outside of areas showing already high reporting.
"'Through Our Eyes' is a snapshot of LGB people's experiences of crime and policing over the last three years and we believe that through this report and the implementation of these recommendations, we can move to address this issue effectively and speak with one voice against those who want to damage our society."