Tackling hate crime
The Equality Commission made it clear in its 'Statement on Key Inequalities in Northern Ireland' that working to counter prejudice and to promote good relations is intrinsic to reducing inequality. It highlighted, in particular, the need to tackle racial prejudice, sectarianism, disability hate crime, and homophobic violence.
The level of prejudice against LGB individuals is highlighted by the nature and degree of hate crime on the grounds of sexual orientation. For example, between 1 April 2012 to 31 March 2013, 149 homophobic crimes were recorded, with the number of homophobic crimes and incidents increasing by almost a quarter compared with the previous year. In addition, the vast majority if homophobic hate crime involves violence against the person.
Recent statistics also reveal that in 2012/13, the sanction detection rate for crimes with a homophobic motivation tended to be lower than those for all crimes recorded by the police, regardless of crime type. In addition, a report in 2012 on Criminal Justice Responses to Hate Crime in Northern Ireland has raised serious concerns at the low level of referrals of victims of hate crime, including homophobic hate crime, to Victim Support.
A report by the Northern Ireland Policing Board, Human Rights Schematic Review: Policing with and for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered individual in 2012 also highlights the low detection rates in relation to non-sectarian hate crime (including homophobic hate crime). The report further highlights the fact it is widely accepted, including by the Police Service, that hate crime is underreported. High levels of homophobic hate crime and under reporting of homophobic incidents by victims of hate crime is also clear from the Rainbow Project survey of LGB individuals experiences of hate crime in 2009.
It is also of note that gay men are particularly vulnerable to being subjected to homophobic hate crime, with statistics revealing that between 73% and 86% of victims of homophobic crimes over the last six years being male ; which reinforces the need, as set out below in more detail, for public bodies and others to address particular issues faced by LGB people with multiple identities.
Further, the Commission has also supported a sexual orientation discrimination case which settled in 2012 which involved allegations that the PSNI had failed to adequately investigate reported homophobic hate crimes.
We welcome the fact that the Department of Justice has taken steps to address hate crime through the new Community Safety strategy and has published a hate crime action plan which includes a range of priorities to tackle hate crime and address underreporting including an independent reporting system for recording hate crime.
- The Commission recommends by the Executive takes effective action to prevent, and detect homophobic hate crime; support victims of homophobic hate crime and encouraging the reporting of homophobic hate crime; increasing awareness of LGB issues within key criminal justice agencies.