Teenager stripped and beaten in vicious homophobic attack
Police are on the hunt for two males who subjected a teenager to a brutal homophobic attack last Sunday.
The incident happened in the Castleton Gardens area of north Belfast near Alexandra Park, but the details have only just emerged.
The PSNI say they are treating the attack as a 'hate crime' and have appealed to the public for further information in their search for the attackers.
A PSNI officer said: "A teenage male wearing a black hoodie, blue jeans and red shoes was with three friends when they were approached by two males who told the teenager's friends to leave.
"The two males then brought the remaining teenage male to an alleyway in the Castleton Gardens area between 12.30am and 1am.
"The suspects stole the teenage male's bank card and phone and stripped him down to his underwear before violently assaulting him and making off.
"The teenage male walked from Castleton Gardens to the Antrim Road covered in blood.
"He suffered grazes and bruises to his face and arms and was conveyed to the Royal Victoria Hospital."
Local UUP councillor David Browne - who knows the victim and his family, told the Belfast Telegraph last night: "This was a savage attack on a young man purely because he was gay.
"It's an absolute disgrace that a gay person cannot walk the streets of Belfast without fear of being attacked."
Mr Browne added: "I feel that the police and courts need to take very strong action in order to deter attacks of this particularly nasty and vicious kind.
"Anyone convicted of this attack should be going to jail - not just be given a slap on the wrist."
John O'Doherty of the Rainbow Project, a gay support and advocacy group, said that homophobic incidents in Northern Ireland were very common - and increasing.
"There is still a great deal of homophobia in Northern Ireland society in general, and its existence allows the perpetrators of crimes like these to justify themselves in their own minds."
He encouraged anyone experiencing homophobic abuse or attacks - whether at their home, in work or on the street - to get in contact with the Rainbow Project on (028) 9031 9030 for guidance and support.
Official figures show that homophobic hate crimes are on the increase in Northern Ireland.
According to PSNI statistics, they have been increasing year on year since 2006/7.
In 2013/14, 280 incidents were recorded by the force - up from 245 in 2012/13 and 200 in 2011/12.