The number of homophobic hate crime reports in the UK has doubled and the number of transphobic hate crime reports has tripled over the last five years, new figures obtained by VICE World News reveal. The figures were received through responses to freedom of information requests from every police force in the UK.
The new data shows police received 26,824 reports of hate crimes based on sexual orientation in 2021-22, compared to 10,003 in 2016-17 – a 168 percent increase. The most recent reporting year also saw a 32 percent increase compared to the previous year, which is the biggest yearly rise ever recorded.
For reports of transphobic hate crimes, there were 1,292 reports recorded in 2016-17 and 4,399 in 2021-22. There was a 59 percent increase compared to 2020-21 – which is also the largest increase ever recorded.
Freedom of information requests were sent to all 45 UK territorial police forces, requesting data covering the full reporting years, which run from April to March. All police forces responded with data.
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.
The figures show occasions when a hate crime has been reported to police, not an arrest or conviction, and some police forces believe the increases show more people trust them to tackle hate crimes.
But LGBTQ charities have told VICE World News that these figures are “only the tip of the iceberg”, because “so many LGBTQ people would never willingly speak to the police about what happens to them.”
“I never thought it would happen to me.”
In July 2021, AJ, 25 from Belfast, was attacked in Liverpool while celebrating his graduation from his teaching degree.
After a “random man” stopped to ask AJ for something, to which AJ responded “no, sorry love”, the man used homophobic slurs before hitting AJ. He was called a “faggot” and a “gay cunt” while being head-butted and beaten by the individual and his three friends. AJ was left covered in blood.
During a night in hospital on his own, AJ – his full name – uploaded photos of his wounds to social media.
“There had been a string of homophobic attacks in Liverpool, and I was like the fourth person, so I wanted to raise awareness, and it worked,” he said.
Just a few hours later, the police turned up at his door to investigate the incident.
Arrests were eventually made, but one year on, the case still hasn’t been fully sorted – even after one person pleaded guilty. AJ told me he’s been “really angry” during the process, adding: “It’s taken way too long, and the guys said that they didn’t use homophobic language, so it’s not really seen as a homophobic attack.”
That one incident has changed AJ’s life. He was left with physical scarring, and he was “constantly being sick” because of the trauma and shock. Eventually he turned to alcohol to try and help him recover.
“Being beaten for being gay made me feel so vulnerable. I was so shocked. I’m not saying it should happen to anyone, but I never thought it would happen to me. I really didn’t think homophobia was still such a big thing.”
Like the majority of police forces that provided data to VICE World News, Merseyside police force, headquartered in Liverpool, has seen a year-on-year rise in hate crime reports based on sexual orientation since 2014. The police force has seen a 94 percent rise in reports compared to last year.
- Merseyside: Police received 64 reports in 2014-15 and 1,618 in 2021-22 - the highest number on record.
- Scotland: Crimes rose from 1,010 in 2014-15 to 1,853 in 2021-22.
- West Midlands: Reports rose from 312 to 1,765 in the same years, with a 43 percent increase compared to last year.
- Greater Manchester: Police received 2,159 reports in 2021-22, which was a 48 percent increase compared to the previous year.
- London Metropolitan: After a dip in reports last year, there was a 28 percent increase in homophobic hate crimes this year, with reports now rising to 3,794 - the highest of any police force.
- Durham: There was a 225 percent year-on-year increase in reports based on homophobic incidents, with reports rising to 198.
Only five police forces saw a decrease in reports of homophobic hate crimes compared to the previous reporting year: Derbyshire, Humberside, Northamptonshire, South Yorkshire and Suffolk. However, all of them still had massive increases compared to five years ago.
In the most recent reporting year, the highest number of reports based on transphobic hate crimes came from:
- London (434)
- Greater Manchester (320)
- West Yorkshire (317)
- West Midlands (234)
- Hampshire (201)
One of London’s huge number of transphobic hate crime reports came from Naya Martinez.
In January, Martinez, a 21-year-old trans woman from London, was threatened with being stabbed, just because she’s trans.
“The hate in the UK is real. It’s so disgusting, absolutely revolting.”
She was out having dinner with a friend in the area she grew up in, and while waiting for their food to arrive, the pair were approached by a group of men. The men filmed them for several minutes while screaming “Get out or I’ll stab you” and “Don’t fucking come here again you batty man.”
One of the attackers posted their footage on TikTok, and the video went viral, with millions of views. Some viewers reported it to London’s Metropolitan Police – who eventually reached out to Martinez.
“We gave the police pictures of the people that attacked us, along with the attackers’ names and links to their social media profiles,” she said, but added, “the police still did nothing”.
She hasn’t heard from police since they interviewed her soon after the attack. Police would only tell VICE World News that they would provide updates when they had them.
“The police had everything to catch these people, and they didn’t, but that didn't surprise me,” Martinez told VICE World News. “I never expected them to catch anyone or do anything in the first place, because they never do.”
She added: “If another trans person was being attacked, I wouldn’t recommend them going to the police about it. They’re useless at protecting LGBT people. I would never tell anyone to go to the police.”
“Being LGBT, we’re used to the abuse, and we’re used to people making us feel uncomfortable. But the hate in the UK is real. It’s so disgusting, absolutely revolting.”
Only four out of 45 police forces witnessed slight decreases in reports of transphobic hate crimes compared to the previous year: Derbyshire, Norfolk, North Wales and Staffordshire.
Leni Morris, chief executive of Galop, the UK’s LGBTQ anti-abuse charity, said the data uncovered by VICE World News shows “significant, disproportionate rises” in attacks against the LGBTQ community in the UK.
“This isn't just data. These reports represent members of our community who are physically attacked, or blackmailed, or harassed in their own homes. The data alone cannot be the end of the story for the victims of this kind of violence and abuse, and we call on the criminal justice system in this country to review both our protections under the law and the effectiveness of the prosecutions of our attackers.”
A spokesperson for London’s Metropolitan Police told VICE World News that they had seen an increase in transphobic hate crime reports that was also reflected nationally.
They added: “Increases in recorded hate crime over recent years is driven by increased confidence in reporting, improvements in crime recording and a better understanding of what constitutes a hate crime.”
Merseyside Police’s Detective Superintendent Steve Reardon told VICE World News police there are working to “remove the scourge of homophobia and transphobia from our streets.”
He added: “Regrettably, in summer 2021 we saw a rise in hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation in Liverpool City Centre. Following these incidents, we made a number of swift arrests, increased high-visibility patrols and engagement and set up a mobile police station to increase awareness in how to report hate crime.
“One year on, we welcome that the number of hate crimes reported to us has increased so significantly as this shows that more victims have the confidence to come forward to us so we can investigate these appalling crimes, provide support for victims and ensure that perpetrators are put behind bars.”