Homophobic crime on the rise in Northern Ireland

Homophobic crime on the rise, yet still largely under reported in Northern Ireland.

Police Man stands beside police car in Northern Ireland

Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) statistics published May 17 this year show that homophobic incidents and homophobic crime are on the rise in Northern Ireland.

Homophobic incidents are issues that are reported to the PSNI but the severity of the incident might not necessarily merit the recording of a crime. Although some homophobic incidents may lead to multiple crimes being recorded.

In the 12 months from April 1, 2018, to March 31 2019, there were 281 homophobic incidents recorded by the PSNI which is 14 more incidents than the previous 12 months. The level of homophobic crimes in Northern Ireland is also rising with 163 occurring in the 2017/2018 period increasing by 38 to 201 in the 2017/2019 period. 150 of the homophobic crimes recorded in the 2018/2019 period were violent offences.

In Belfast, homophobic crimes rose by 18 from 69 in the 2017/2018 period to 87 in the 2018/2019 period. Over 40% of homophobic crimes in Northern Ireland took place in the Belfast City policing district. Aisling Twomey of The Rainbow Project, an LGBT+ health organisation believes that PSNI statistics don’t accurately represent the level of homophobic incidents or crime in Northern Ireland. “Whilst there has been no better time to be LGBT – these types of incidents are still occurring on a daily basis. This is not an increase in the level of crime but it is an increase in the number of crimes being reported to the PSNI” said Twomey.

The Rainbow Project was established in 1994 by a group of volunteers concerned about the spread of HIV amongst gay men in Northern Ireland and now works to improve the physical, mental, emotional health and wellbeing of all LGBT+ people in Northern Ireland. They work with the victims of homophobic crimes, supporting and helping them to access justice through the PSNI and the Public Prosecution Service.

Research carried out by The Rainbow Project suggests that over 64% of homophobic crimes and incidents are not being reported in Northern Ireland. Under-reporting crime is a significant issue in the LGBT+ community and other minorities. Homophobic crimes and crimes against other minorities can be particularly damaging to a person as the crimes are motivated by prejudice and hatred. Twomey reaffirmed the particularly damaging effects of homophobic crime, “Hate crime robs people of their confidence and their independence.” If homophobic incidents are not reported then there may be a lack of resources allocated to the PSNI to combat homophobic motivated crimes.

Despite a 2013 survey on public opinion towards same-sex marriage indicating that 59% were in favour of it and activism regarding LGBT+ issues by individuals and groups such as The Rainbow Project, Northern Ireland’s progress regarding many LGBT issues, including tackling homophobic crime lags both the UK and the Republic.

If you have been the victim of a homophobic incident you should report it:

In the Republic of Ireland:

If you want to report the crime to An Garda Síochána you should contact the ELO/LGBTLO of your local garda station. You can find the number of your local garda station here.

You can also get support from Crime Victims Helpline here, by calling 116006, by emailing [email protected] or by texting 085 1337711

In Northern Ireland:

If you would like to report the crime to the PSNI you can ring their non-emergency number on 101 and select option 2.

Or if you don’t want to contact the PSNI, members of the public can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.

© 2019 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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