Not enough victims of homophobia and transphobia get justice, charity warns
A charity which offers support to victims of homophobic and transphobic hate crimes says it’s not satisfied with the number of victims that get justice.
Home Office figures show that reports of hate crimes against the LGBT+ community are on the rise in Wales and England.
But according to Victim Support, fewer than half of those who experience hate crimes report them to the police.
Crimes motivated by people’s sexuality increased by 7% compared to the previous year, with crimes against transgender people up by 3%.
‘Serious problem’ In an interview with Y Byd ar Bedwar, S4C’s flagship current affairs programme, Tom Edwards from Victim Support says the problem is a “serious one that’s growing”.
The charity, which provides a support line for victims of hate crime, saw an increase of 25% in calls relating to homophobia or transphobia during the first three months of 2022, compared to the same period last year.
Even though there’s been an increase, the charity fears a lot of people suffer in silence - only 40% of victims report hate crimes to the police.
‘Losing faith in the police’
According to Mr Edwards, the charity understands why victims don’t go to the police.
“Some people are scared they won’t be believed, and some have lost faith in the police because of things they see in the press. Some people hear stories of people getting lost in the justice system.
He adds: “We’re not satisfied with the justice system at the moment, and there’s a lot of work to do in order to improve things.”
Ash Lewis, 35, is non-binary and runs a youth club for LGBTQ+ people in Carmarthen.
According to Ash, experiencing homophobia or transphobia isn’t uncommon in their area: “If I reported every case, I’d be on the phone constantly."
Ash feels when hate crimes are reported to the police, the response isn’t always a positive one.
During the summer of last year, the youth club experienced a series of incidents where young people acted in a homophobic and threatening manner outside the club.
With organisers fearful for the safety of the youth club’s young members, the incidents were reported to the police as hate crimes and anti-social behaviour. They asked the police whether officers could come to patrol the club’s next session, but say it took a month for an officer to come and speak to the organisers face to face. The organisers say they felt frustrated as it took a further five weeks for officers to come and patrol the sessions.
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'They don’t turn up when we need them'
“I know times are hard with staff, but they need to try harder, I think. “Maybe they say the police are there for us, but the reality is they don’t turn up when we need them, and they don’t take these incidents seriously. “They ask for us to report hate crimes, but when we do, nothing happens quickly enough, and that makes us feel as if there’s no point in reporting things.”
Dyfed Powys Police said it is committed to providing a high level of service to all members of our communities.
In a statement, the force said: "In relation to the specific incident reported to police, which occurred outside the venue in August 2021, the victim was spoken to by a Hate Crime Support Officer and did not wish to make a complaint. As all viable lines of enquiry had been addressed the investigation was closed."
In response to the delay in attending the club, it added that “efforts were made over a number of weeks to arrange a mutually convenient date and time for officers to attend and speak to the young people. In early October two officers attended the venue with further offers of attendance declined.”
Superintendent Jason Rees leads South Wales Police’s hate crime team. In July 2021, the force was called to respond to Dr Gary Jenkins’ murder in Bute Park, which was later found to be a homophobic attack.
In an interview with Dot Davies, Spt Rees explained that police are working to ensure that more people come forward: "We are more determined than ever to deal with hate crimes in all its forms in the very earliest opportunity to identify. We can only do that when we get reports.
“I understand that different communities will have different trust levels in how they view and see the police and we totally understand that, but that’s our job to ensure that we’re out there and visible.”
In a statement, the Crown Prosecution Service said: "The CPS takes hate crime extremely seriously. Where there is sufficient evidence and is in the public interest we will prosecute these cases."
Watch the full episode of Y Byd ar Bedwar on S4C, on Monday May 16 at 8pm, with English subtitles available.