The Equality Network, Scotland’s national lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) equality and human rights charity has launched a new project aimed to increase the reporting of LGBTI hate crimes and incidents and improve the support available to those targeted.
The initiative adds Scotland to the National LGBT Hate Crime Partnership which brings together 35 LGBT organisations from across England and Wales, funded by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and led by the LGBT Consortium.
The launch coincides with Hate Crime Awareness Week at a time when many LGBTI people still experience prejudice, abuse or serious assault as a result of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The Scottish Government will also host a hate crime summit next week (Wednesday, October 21), aimed at examining solutions to the problem.
In Scotland, sexual orientation aggravated crime is the second most common type of hate crime, but it is known through Equality Network that many people don’t report incidents to the police.
The number of charges specific to sexual orientation aggravated crime reported has risen each year since hate crime legislation came into effect in March 2010, to stand at 890 in 2013-14. While reporting by transgender people remains low, this is due to massive under-reporting. The project will support people to recognise when they have experienced a hate crime, encourage them to report it to the police and signpost them to any help they need.
The project will also involve awareness-raising sessions with LGBTI community groups across the country, as well as training for the police and Crown Office and other criminal justice agencies, and a high profile social media campaign.
Scott Cuthbertson from the Equality Network said: “Nobody should live in fear because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or sex characteristics, but we know that lots of people still do.
“That’s why we want this project to let LGBTI people living in Scotland know that the law is there to protect them. We are looking forward to working with the Police Scotland, the Crown Office and other criminal justice agencies to make sure that they support people in the best way possible if they make a report.
“There shouldn’t be any barriers, perceived or otherwise, to reporting a hate crime. We hope that by working with our partners we can encourage more people to recognise a hate crime, report it to the police, and get the support they are entitled to.”
A recent report by the Equality Network found that almost half of respondents had experienced or witnessed an incident of prejudice or discrimination in the past month, rising to 79 per cent within the past year and 97 per cent within their lifetimes.
The Scottish LGBT Equality Report also found that transgender respondents were more likely to have experienced prejudice or discrimination in a recent period. One out of seven respondents (14 per cent) had experienced or witnessed an incident in the last 24 hours, almost half (45 per cent) in the last week and 91 per cent in the last year.