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Fewer homophobic hate crime prosecutions despite rising reports

The number of prosecutions dropped from 20% of all reports to 8% between 2014/15 and 2018/19.

Two men kiss in front of a rainbow coloured bridge (PA)
Two men kiss in front of a rainbow coloured bridge (PA)

By Henry Vaughan, Press Association

Homophobic hate crimes reported to police have more than doubled in the past five years – but just 8% now result in prosecutions, new figures suggest.

Reports of homophobic abuse recorded by UK police forces soared from 5,807 in 2014/15 to 13,530 in 2018/19, according to the data.

But the number of prosecutions dropped from 1,157 to 1,058 over the same period – from 20% of all reports to 8%.

The figures were obtained by BBC Radio 5 Live Investigations under Freedom of Information laws.

Full responses to the request were received from 38 of the UK’s 46 forces, with partial data from Police Scotland not included in the analysis.

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(PA Graphics)

Lee Broadstock, the secretary of the national LGBT police network, said people now feel more confident to report hate crimes, but lower level incidents are difficult to prosecute.

“We have seen an increase in confidence in victims to report it to us and I think that’s where that increase has come from,” he told BBC Breakfast.

“We have improved confidence of people to report but they are reporting some of the lower-level incidents, some of the shouting in the streets, a lot of the online hate is being reported to us.

“Some things are proving a lot more difficult for us to take forward, especially with online hate, such as (on) Twitter…

“It’s very difficult to get that user account from Twitter because it’s based in the US so it’s very difficult for us to prosecute.”

The figures show reports to West Yorkshire Police and South Yorkshire Police have increased more than five-fold in the past five years, from 172 to 961 and 73 to 375 respectively.

But the proportion that resulted in a charge or summons fell from 19% to 4% in West Yorkshire and from 10% to 3% in South Yorkshire over the period.

The Metropolitan Police, Britain’s largest force, saw reports rise from 1,561 in 2014/15 to 2,315 in 2018/19, as the number of cases leading to a charge or summons fell from 246 to 165 over the five years.

Reports to Greater Manchester Police increased from 423 to 1,159 as the number resulting in prosecutions fell from 82 to 50.

A National Police Chiefs’ Council spokesman said: “For many years, we have been working to encourage those who have been victims of hate crime to come forward and tell police about their experiences. While we are concerned by the overall rise in hate crimes, of any nature, we view these figures as a successful reflection of our efforts in an area of under-reported crime.

“Police will investigate crime reports and will pursue action against those responsible where there is evidence to do so. Unfortunately, with many cases, there are often no witnesses to these crimes and scarce evidence – this may lead to police being unable to identify a suspect.

“The police service has no tolerance for this type of abuse but we need to be made aware that crimes are taking place so that we can investigate or, better still, prevent them from happening.”

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