LGBTQ+ communities living in fear in Wales as over 80% of hate crime goes unreported
People from Wales’ LGBTQ+ communities fear abuse and violent attacks, as new data shows only a small proportion of reported crimes lead to criminal charges.
According to statistics from the Home Office, in 2021, hate crimes against people because of their sexuality were up 41% across the UK, while those against transgender people were up by 56%.
Despite the increase in reported cases, recent research by ITV Cymru Wales found that less than 7% of sexual orientation hate crimes led to criminal charges.
Fewer than 3% of reported transphobic hate crimes lead to criminal charges, while it’s thought that 80% of incidents go unreported.
LGBTQ+ hate crimes are defined as intimidation, harassment or violence towards a person because of their sexual orientation or transgender identity.
Sexual orientation crimes leading to criminal charges by Welsh police force
Keelan Williams, who performs as drag queen Martha Tydfil, told ITV Cymru Wales he has experienced homophobia since coming out in his teens.
“When I came out I experienced a lot of homophobia from kids my age,” Keelan said.
“I used to be friends with all the lads I was in school with, playing football, playing rugby.
“You go one day from being with all the boys and doing something that you like and then coming out of it and you feel like you’ve got nothing.
“I was lucky enough to have the support of my family and my relatives but you feel like something’s wrong with you because you’re stuck in that way, you’re the one that’s different and not everybody else.”
Keelan has regularly suffered harassment on the street, and was once attacked with a brick while being called a homophobic slur.
It’s this violent abuse that statistics show is on the rise.
“Homophobia is wrong in every form and every sense,” he continued.
“I believe the government needs to do more to educate the public and make sure that homophobia is stopped. It needs to end.”
The Welsh Government has outlined its ambition to become the most LGBTQ+ friendly nation in Europe and its plan of how to achieve that goal is currently under consultation.
It includes goals such as ensuring a strong relationship between LGBTQ+ people and the police and banning conversion therapy.
It was announced soon after a fatal homophobic attack on Dr. Gary Jenkins in Cardiff’s Bute Park in July 2022.
While the investigation into Dr Jenkins’ murder led to a successful conviction of his three attackers, ITV Cymru Wales’ research found that most reported crimes aren’t leading to convictions.
During the pandemic, Bleddyn Harris created Wales’ first bilingual LGBTQ+ magazine, LGBTQymru.
He told ITV’s Wales This Week programme he’s concerned for the safety of many LGBTQ+ people.
“Over recent years, for a number of reasons, it’s become a little bit more dangerous to be LGBTQ+ in Wales,” he said.
“You know we see the national conversation about wanting to be the friendliest LGBTQ+ nation in Europe, and I think that’s an amazing aspiration, but it’s the actions of people everyday in Wales that actually determines what it’s like to be LGBTQ+.
“I’ve never felt more connected to the rest of the community in Wales but for the first time in a very long time I’ve also never been so conscious of who I am and how I present myself when I walk through the door.
“I think it just becomes a case of surviving and not living - to our full potential, because we’re just trying to get through the day - you know we’re just trying to make our way down the streets without being harassed, were just trying to make our way through the park without getting murdered.”
On Thursday, the two men who murdered Dr Jenkins had appeals to reduce their prison sentences refused.
Jason Edwards, 26, and Lee Strickland, 36, were jailed for life along with Dionne Timms-Williams, 18.
“Let’s be honest, the murderers who did what they did to Gary Jenkins did it because they wanted to and because they thought they could get away with it,” Bleddyn continued.
“That represents the kind of society that we’re moving into at the moment.”
South Wales Police were responsible for the investigation into Dr Gary Jenkins’ murder.
Superintendent Jason Rees leads the force’s Hate Crime Unit.
“It’s incredibly rare that we get a hate crime to the magnitude of what happened to Dr Gary Jenkins,” he said.
“I think South Wales Police and our partner agencies need to do all we can to identify at the very earliest opportunity, when we are seeing instances of hate crime in our society so that they don’t escalate and we deal with perpetrators robustly and efficiently and effectively.
“We are encouragingly seeing in the past few months higher levels of reporting with LGBT hate crime, but I don’t think this is just a police issue.
“I think we also need to work really closely with our licensed premises, which we’re doing, to be alive to instances of hate crime and to report when they identify it.
“Especially as well our education establishments so we can build education, build awareness of what constitutes a hate crime and make people fully understanding of when they need to report matters to police.”
On under reporting of incidents, Superintendent Rees said: “I understand people’s frustrations on occasions, but what I would say is South Wales Police at all times encourage people to report matters to the police.
“We are more determined than ever to deal with hate crime in all its forms at the very earliest opportunity when identified. We can only do that when we get reports.”
One youth group in Carmarthen feel police have been too slow in responding to concerns from the LGBTQ+ community.
The town’s LGBTQ+ Youth Group meets every fortnight and aims to offer a safe space for young people in the area.
In the summer of 2022, they experienced a series of homophobic and threatening incidents outside the club.
Concerned for the safety of the young people, the organisers reported the incidents to police in August 2021 as hate crimes and antisocial behaviour.
They also asked Dyfed Powys Police if officers could patrol the next session.
However, according to organisers, it took a month for an officer to speak with them face to face, and it was nine weeks before they came to patrol the sessions.
Ash Lewis told ITV Cymru Wales: “We had an incident and we wanted support and to help make the young people feel safe, and I think that should’ve been a priority for a PCSO or the hate crime officer.
“They should’ve been here to be visible. We’re not asking for every week. It was an incident that we needed help with, and they didn’t help us.”
A spokesperson for Dyfed Powys Police said they’re sorry to hear that the organisers were unhappy with their response, adding that two officers attended the club in October last year and an offer was made to attend future meetings.
You can watch the latest Wales This Week on Thursday at 8.30 on ITV Cymru Wales, and catch up afterwards online.