‘Don’t Punish Me For Who I Am’: Huge Jump in Anti-LGBTQ Hate Crime Reports in UK

Reports of homophobic hate crimes have risen by 210 percent over the last six years, while over the same period transphobic hate crime reports rose by 332 percent, according to figures obtained by VICE World News.
October 11, 2021, 9:43am
‘Don’t Punish Me For Who I Am’: Huge Jump in Anti-LGBTQ Hate Crime Reports in UK
Anna Montgomery after she was attacked in Belfast last September. Photo: Supplied

The number of homophobic hate crime reports in the UK has tripled and the number of transphobic hate crime reports has quadrupled over the last six years, new figures obtained by VICE World News reveal.

The figures were received through responses to freedom of information requests from police forces across the UK. 

The new data shows there were 6,363 reports of hate crimes based on sexual orientation in 2014-15, the year same-sex weddings became legal in Great Britain, compared to 19,679 in 2020-21. For reports of transphobic hate crimes, there were 598 in 2014-15 and 2,588 in 2020-21.

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The 2014-15 reporting year was a period of huge change in LGBTQ rights across the UK. It marked the moment that same-sex weddings started taking place across England, Wales and Scotland. It also covered when Stonewall – Europe’s largest LGBTQ charity – started campaigning for trans equality. 

Even with chunks of the most recent reporting year, which covers April 2020 to March 2021, being spent in nationwide lockdowns, attacks based on who people love and how they identify continued. 

Compared to last year’s figures, across the UK there has been a 12 percent rise in reports to police of hate crimes based on sexual orientation and a 2 percent increase in reports based on transgender identity.

Freedom of information requests were sent to all 45 UK police forces, requesting data covering 2014 to 2021. Only two police forces, Hampshire and West Mercia, failed to respond. 

A hate crime is a criminal offence that is motivated by "hostility or prejudice" towards someone because of factors such as their race, religion, or sexual orientation.

If an incident is considered a hate crime, officials can apply to the court to increase the offender's sentence.

While some police forces claim the increases they’ve seen in reports might be down to more people being comfortable coming forward to them, LGBTQ charities have told VICE World News that these figures are “only the tip of the iceberg.”

“This is what happens when people think we’re up for debate”

Anna Montgomery knows what it’s like to be hated because of who you are. The 21-year-old was left beaten and covered in blood when she was the victim of a transphobic attack in Belfast in September 2020. 

“Me and my boyfriend went out for a nice meal in town, but while we were having a few drinks I was assaulted at the table. A guy literally came up and punched me in the face.”

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“I reported it to the police, but they didn’t really do anything. They asked me to come in and give a statement, but then they called me a week later and said there wasn’t enough evidence.” The PSNI has been contacted for comment. 

One year on, Montgomery says she is still deeply affected by the hate crime. 

“I’ve got a scar on my forehead from the attack and I still won’t leave the house without someone else with me,” she said. 

“I work, I pay taxes, I contribute to society, I should be protected, but the police are trying to put a mask over it and do as little as possible. They really let me down and made me feel like I didn’t matter to them.” 

“I just want people to know that this is how people treat me, just for being me. Accept me or ignore me but please don't punish me for who I am.”

VICE World News has heard from LGBTQ people who experienced their first hate crimes during the nationwide lockdown. 

One lesbian couple from Liverpool, who went for a “lockdown wedding anniversary walk” in their local park, were screamed at by a man who believed they were just two friends breaking social distancing guidance. 

“My wife lost it and shouted at him that we’re a gay couple and that he should mind his own business, but of course he didn’t.”

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The man suddenly turned violent and began screaming homophobic language at them, before he tried to physically stop them from holding hands. 

“We didn’t report it to Mersey police because there was no CCTV and we knew it would go nowhere.” 

Like the majority of police forces who provided data to VICE World News, Liverpool’s Merseyside police force has seen a year-on-year rise in hate crime reports based on sexual orientation since 2014:

  • Merseyside: Police received 64 reports in 2014-15 and 834 in 2020-21.
  • Scotland: Crimes rose from 1,010 in 2014-15 to 1,686 in 2020-21.
  • West Yorkshire: Reports rose from 161 to 1,213 in the same years.
  • Greater Manchester: Police received 1,460 reports in 2020-21, which was an 18 percent increase compared to the previous year.
  • Northern Ireland: There was a 26 percent increase in homophobic hate crimes in 2020-21, the year following the nation’s first gay wedding ceremony taking place.

London’s Metropolitan Police received the highest number of reports, however it was one of ten forces to see a small decrease in reports of homophobic hate crimes in the latest year, with 3,028 in 2019-20 and 2,974 in 2020-21. This figure still marked a 24 percent increase compared to the Met’s 2018-19 records.

In the most recent reporting year, the highest number of reports based on transphobic hate crimes came from: 

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  • London (287)
  • West Yorkshire (201)
  • Manchester (169)
  • West Midlands (126)
  • Scotland (111)

Leni Morris, chief executive of Galop, the UK’s LGBTQ anti-abuse charity, said she wasn’t surprised that hate crime reports went up during the lockdown period. 

“Right from the beginning of the pandemic, we saw the impact that lockdown was having on the escalation in violence and abuse against our community,” she said.

“We saw LGBT+ people targeted as a direct result of the pandemic – either because the pandemic was seen as a punishment for our existence, or because of our community’s association with the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and a notion that LGBT+ people were somehow at the root of this pandemic.”

“What we do know for sure, from the UK government’s own figures, is that 90% of hate crimes against LGBT+ people go unreported, so these figures only represent a tiny part of the overall amount of abuse and violence faced by the LGBT+ community in the UK today.”

Sasha Misra, Associate Director of Communications and Campaigns at Stonewall, said: ‘These deeply concerning statistics must be a wake up call that we need to do more to tackle rising hate against lesbian, gay, bi, trans and queer people. It’s worrying to see such a stark increase in reports of hate crimes, especially during a pandemic which caused so many of us to live through multiple lockdowns. This can’t continue. As a society, we all need to do more to combat anti-LGBTQ+ violence and call out abuse, harassment and anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment wherever we see it.”

The National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for Hate Crime, Deputy Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said: “Everyone has the right to live their lives without fear of being attacked for who they are, either physically or verbally. Being subjected to a hate crime whether in person or online, can be devastating to an individual’s mental health, their online security, and in some cases their personal safety. It is completely unacceptable and police will take, and do take, all reports of hate crime seriously and we will do everything we can to investigate.”

A UK Home Office spokesperson said: “Hate crimes are completely unacceptable and those who commit these hateful attacks should feel the full force of the law.

“Increases in police recorded hate crime have been partly driven by general improvements in crime recording, better identification of what constitutes a hate crime by the police, and more victims coming forward.”