Five youths arrested on suspicion of homophobic attack

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Following an investigation by the Bromley Community Safety Unit, five youths were arrested this week on suspicion of homophobic affray and false imprisonment, with four of the youths also arrested for criminal damage.

The youths who cannot be named for legal reasons age from 14 to 16 years old and live in the areas of Sydenham, Shortlands and Beckenham.

The arrests follow a campaign of hate-motivated incidents against a Bromley couple, with one such incident taken place at approx 1900 on Saturday 13 May 2006.

When walking back home from Shortlands Station, the couple was approached by a group of 6-8 youths who began making insulting gestures and shouting homophobic insults at them.

Later in the month, the couple were in Beckenham High Street at approx 1445 and as they entered a Marks and Spencer store, they saw a group of youths and recognised at least one as having been involved in the earlier incident and previous incidents of homophobic abuse.

Once more, they were subjected to homophobic abuse as they walked through the group and into the store.

During the course of half an hour, the youths continued to gather around outside the store, in turn blocking the main entrance to other customers, with some following the victims around the store and threatening them. During this particular incident, one of the youths grabbed one of the victims, knocking over a shop display and damaging goods in the process.

The youths eventually made off from the store on a No 54 bus. CCTV taken from the bus showed four of the youths causing criminal damage on the upper deck.

They were later identified from CCTV footage taken from both the bus and the store, and arrested in the early hours of yesterday morning at their home addresses.

They were taken to a south London police station and have been bailed to return at a later date in August.

A further youth is being sought in connection with the offences.