Violent attacks on LGBT people go unpunished in Lancashire as police close books on over 93 PER CENT of all hate crimes

Violent attacks on LGBT people in Lancashire continue to go unpunished, as police close the books on over 93 per cent of all reported hate crimes without bringing anyone to justice - with charges falling to zero in some cases.

By Wes Holmes
Friday, 7th January 2022, 8:54 am
Hate crime reports have increased nationally over the past three years - but the vast majority of offenders remain unpunished
Hate crime reports have increased nationally over the past three years - but the vast majority of offenders remain unpunished

Fewer than one per cent of all transphobic hate crimes and fewer than seven per cent of homophobic hate crimes reported in Lancashire over the past three years resulted in police charges, figures obtained by the Blackpool Gazette reveal.

And for violent hate crimes, the numbers were even lower.

Out of all 92 reports of transphobic assaults in the county between 2020 and August 2021, not a single one resulted in the perpetrator being brought to justice.

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Lancashire LGBT CEO Lewis Turner

Meanwhile, just six per cent of the 608 violent hate crimes based on sexual orientation reported between 2019 and August 2021 made it to court.

LGBT Charity UK founder Luke Conway, who supports lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Blackpool, said the figures would not come as a shock to many members of the LGBT community.

“When I have reported hate crimes in the past, or reported on someone’s behalf, police don’t seem interested,” he said.

“I’ve had several arguments with police about the problem of hate crimes. We face it on a weekly basis. For example, we had a young lady come to us being harassed by her neighbour; she was transgender and having abuse because of her sexuality. Police just weren’t interested at all. All they would say was that there wasn’t much they could do. To me that’s not good enough. There’s a lot more they could do.

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“The majority of the time you report hate crime to the police, nothing is done. It gets to the point where you wonder ‘what’s the point?’

“We always encourage people to report things, but you’re reporting it for the sake of a statistic. You’re not reporting it because you believe they are actually going to do anything about it. These figures prove it.”

Between 2019 and August 2021, a total of 608 violent hate crimes based on sexual orientation were reported to Lancashire police, resulting in just 37 charges.

During the same time period, 1,232 non-violent homophobic hate crimes were reported, resulting in 86 charges.

Former Highfield head teacher Carolyn Mercer

Lancashire police could not provide figures for violent transphobic hate crimes for the year 2019, however, 92 were reported between 2020 and August 2021, and none of these led to anyone being charged.

Between 2019 and August 2021, 147 non-violent transphobic hate crimes were reported, and two people were charged.

According to Lancashire police, investigations were dropped due to a number of reasons, with the most common reasons being lack of solid evidence leading to victims withdrawing from pursuing action, and failure to identify offenders.

Other reasons investigations were closed included suspects being ‘too ill’ to prosecute, offenders being charged for an alternate offence, further action being taken by another agency on the the victim’s behalf (such as an LGBT charity), evidential difficulties, and penalty notices for disorder. In four incidents of reported violent behaviour, a restorative justice approach was used.

Figures for transphobic hate crimes, 2019 to August 2021

Nine violent offenders were given simply ‘words of advice’ following reported attacks on LGBT people between 2019 and August 2021, while five were given cautions.

These new figures come amid a surge in reported hate crimes around the country.

READ: Transphobic hate crimes rise in Lancashire while homophobic attacks remain in the hundredsIn December 2021, national figures obtained from multiple UK police forces showed an overall increase in reported hate crimes, with at least 14,670 homophobic incidents recorded between January and August 2021, compared with 11,841 in the same period of 2020 and 10,817 in 2019.

During the same time period, UK police recorded 2,129 transphobic offences – well above the 1,606 offences in 2020 and 1,602 in 2019.

Lancashire showed a steady rise in reported transphobic hate crimes, while hate crimes based on sexual orientation spiked in 2020 and dropped again the following year.

Former Highfield High School headteacher Carolyn Mercer, who was suspended from her job after being outed as transgender in the 1990s, said the crimes reflected prevailing homophobic and transphobic attitudes, brought out by recent debates about gender recognition certificates and the Government’s failure to impose a total ban on conversion therapy.

Figures for hate crimes based on sexual orientation, 2019 to August 2021

She said: “It’s fundamental to the issue. If someone thinks you’re a freak, that dehumanises you and legitimises violence and abuse in some people’s eyes.

“I am shocked that the charge rate is so low. I expected it to be low, but not to such an extent. I have always believed if you report it, it will be taken seriously, but looking at the statistics one has to question that, because the figures don’t lie, and they seem to indicate that this is something that is not high on the police’s priorities, or on many people’s priorities.

“There is still a feeling that whatever happens, we deserve it for doing what we are doing, despite the law.”

Lancashire LGBT CEO Lewis Turner, who once worked as a hate crime officer for Wyre Council and is a member of a national scrutiny panel for transgender hate crimes for the CPS, said:

“Compared to other police forces in the country, I think Lancashire police have done a very good job of encouraging people to report hate crimes.

“(Hate crime) figures are much, much higher now than when I worked as a hate crime officer, and I would like to say that’s because people have more confidence in reporting.

“The most worrying thing for me is we saw a huge increase in hate crime reports post-Brexit; not just race-related, but other identities too. There’s questions to be asked about why that is.

“The second question is why during the lockdown of 2020 did hate crime go up. Normally, hate crime reporting goes up in the summer, and that’s because there’s more people about late in the evening, and a lot of hate crime goes with the night time economy, when people are drunk. So why did hate crime go up during the pandemic, when people weren’t going out so much?”

He added: “I think Lancahsire police have done a lot of good work in terms of reaching out to the LGBT community. All new student police officers get a two-hour talk from our charity; they have an LGBT liaison officer as well, and I don’t know how many other constabularies have that. I think they are trying to build confidence in policing.

“It might well be that the charge rate for all crimes, apart from murder, is at the same level (as hate crimes).

“At the same time, I’m very mindful of the huge cuts we have had to policing in the past 10 years. We have lost 20,000 police officers around the country, so resources are very stretched. When I was a hate crime officer we had more funding and more resources, and those are no longer available.

“We have had 10 years of austerity, so it’s impossible for things to be better than before. But I do feel that there’s a willingness on behalf of the constabulary to reach out to the LGBT community, compared to other constabularies across the country.”

When asked by The Gazette why the charge rate for hate crimes was so low, and what was being done to improve, Lancashire police declined to comment.

Total hate crimes based on sexual orientation, 2019 to August 2021: 1,840 reported, 123 charged (6.6%)

Total transphobic hate crimes, 2019 to August 2021: 239 reported, 2 charged (0.8%)

TOTAL: 2,079 hate crimes reported, 125 charged (6%)