Homophobic hate crime reports go up while prosecutions fall

Reports of homophobic hate crime in West Yorkshire and South Yorkshire have risen five-fold over the past five years but the number being prosecuted has dropped.

Homophobic hate crime risen more than five-fold in five years

Official figures obtained by the BBC show reports to West Yorkshire Police and South Yorkshire Police have increased from 172 to 961 and 73 to 375 respectively.

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

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Across the UK, reports of homophobic abuse 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 per cent of all reports to 8 per cent.

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.

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."

Superintendent Richard Close of West Yorkshire Police, said: “We find that victims, although they have the confidence to report offences, often see barriers in front of them when following through with prosecutions. These barriers can be similar to those domestic abuse victims face, including a fear of reprisals and giving evidence in court which can reveal their identities and personal life.

“Victims will sometimes report the crime anonymously or decline to cooperate with police, making a prosecution much more difficult but victims feel satisfied that a report has been made. Even anonymous reporting can help us build up intelligence and a true picture of what is happening.

“A national reporting function for all hate crime is ‘Truevision’ – this is because we need a ‘truevision’ of where hate crime is happening, what is happening and when it is happening and which specific strands are being affected so we best deploy the limited resources we have.

“On occasions we can also experience difficulty in proving the hate element of a crime and need people with evidence such as CCTV footage to retain it and let us know about it. As a Force we have improved how we investigate such offences and grade them according to their seriousness ensuring we provide the best service we can.

“We are working closely with partners to break down these barriers and working closely with the LGBT community to increase confidence in the criminal justice system as a whole. This includes supporting, with the PCC, the Hate Crime Awareness Week which helps to highlight the issue of hate crime and looks to give people a better understanding of what hate crime is.

“It should also be noted that offenders will be dealt with by other means rather than a charge – through the restorative justice process – which is only ever done according to the victim’s wishes.”

South Yorkshire Police superintendent Sarah Poolman said: “As force lead for hate crime, I welcome the rise in the number of both sexual orientation and gender identity hate crimes being reported over the last few years. These were particular areas where we were concerned about the level of under-reporting and the rise shows that victim confidence is increasing and that we as a force are getting it right in terms of the Home Office Crime Recording Standards.

“The most recent Crime Survey for England and Wales also supports this rise in reporting to police and suggests that the level of under-reporting has reduced.

“Reporting a hate crime can be a huge step for someone and can take an incredible amount of courage, so it’s really positive to see that more victims feel comfortable talking to the police.

“Here in South Yorkshire we have undertaken a vast amount of work to raise awareness of hate crime and build confidence within our communities and reinforce the message that hate crime will not be tolerated. Our hate crime coordinators in every district are actively engaging with schools, businesses and local community support groups to build confidence and community resilience. This work, alongside efforts with our partner agencies, continues, and I’d urge anyone who has been a victim to report it.

“In addition to the work to raise awareness and confidence, we are also committed to improving our response and investigation. Not only do we review all hate crimes to ensure that a positive outcome for the victim is sought, we also seek feedback directly from victims and community groups through our surveys and local hate crime scrutiny panels that informs how we do things.”

The rise in West Yorkshire and South Yorkshire was more extreme than in London, where reports nearly doubled. 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.