CPS “rightly proud” of rise in prosecutions for homophobic hate crimes

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

The Crown Prosecution Service has released new statistics on prosecutions for hate crimes in England and Wales.

Its first annual Hate Crime Report includes information on racist and religious crime, homophobic and transphobic crime, disability hate crime and domestic violence, bringing the strands together in one report for the first time.

In the three years ending in March 2008, more than 2,400 defendants were prosecuted for homophobic or transphobic crimes.

Convictions rose from 71% to 78% in 2007-08.

According to the CPS figures, 76% of homophobic or transphobic hate crimes defendants were White British and 87% were men.

Guilty pleas increased from 58% to 67%.

Successful prosecutions for hate crimes on the grounds of race, religion and disability have also increased over the last few years.

Keir Starmer QC, Director of Public Prosecutions, said:

“The CPS can be rightly proud of its record on prosecuting crimes that are motivated by hostility towards people based on their ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or disability.

“But there is still more that the CPS, and the criminal justice system as a whole, needs to do, particularly when it comes to supporting victims and witnesses through the process of a court case and helping them to give the best evidence they can. We are working hard to ensure that that support is there when it is needed.

“The Annual Hate Crime Report will give us and the public that we serve an overview of how we are continually developing our ability to prosecute these crimes.”

A survey of gay, bisexual and lesbian people published in June revealed that they are regular targets for physical and verbal abuse, yet many do not trust the police to take action.

Homophobic Hate Crime: The Gay British Crime Survey spoke to more than 1,700 LGB people in England, Scotland and Wales.

Among the findings from the survey, which was commissioned by gay equality organisation Stonewall and conducted by respected polling company YouGov:

One in five lesbian and gay people have experienced a homophobic hate crime or incident in the last three years.

One in eight have been a victim in the last year.

Three in four of those experiencing hate crimes or incidents did not report them to the police.

Only six per cent reported them to third parties.

Seven in ten did not report hate crimes or incidents to anyone.

One in six experiencing homophobic hate incidents in the last three years experienced a physical assault.

Eight per cent of all black and minority ethnic lesbian and gay people have experienced a physical assault as a homophobic hate incident, compared to four per cent of all lesbian and gay people.

One in six lesbian and gay people have been insulted and harassed in the last three years because they are gay.

One in eight lesbian and gay people experiencing homophobic hate incidents have experienced unwanted sexual contact as part of the incident.

Overall, three in five lesbian and gay people have been a victim of any crime or incident in the last three years.

Attitudes towards the police demonstrate that despite campaigns and the work of LGBT Liaison Officers in some areas, many gay people do not think they take homophobia seriously.

A third of victims do not report incidents to the police because they do not think the police would
or could do anything about it.

Some people are facing regular harassment, while lesbian couples and even their children are exposed to hatred by homophobes.

Fourteen per cent of victims of homophobic hate crimes or incidents did not report them to anyone because they happen too frequently to report.

The CPS said in the three years ending March 2008, over 200,000 defendants were prosecuted for hate crimes.

During this period, the conviction rate rose from 62% in 2005-6 to 71% in 2007-08 and guilty pleas increased from 59% to 63%.

The vast majority of hate crime defendants across the strands were men.

In domestic violence cases, victims are overwhelmingly women (86%), whereas women were victims in 38-48% of cases in other hate crime strands.

Offences against the person were the most commonly prosecuted offences in domestic violence (around 72%).

Offences in racist and religious and homophobic cases were split between offences against the person and public order offences.

Disability incident cases also involved more offences against the person as well as thefts and handling offences.

In 78% of hate crime defendants were identified as belonging to the White British Category, and 81% were categorized as White.

The Attorney General, Baroness Scotland, said:

“Pernicious crimes of this nature are damaging to the very fabric of our society. They often leave the victims feeling helpless and isolated and that they are somehow to blame for the harm that has been inflicted upon them.

“I welcome the findings of this report as it acknowledges that there has been a real improvement in how hate crimes are being identified and addressed by the CPS.

“It also demonstrates that the victims’ voices are being heard, and that we are working hard to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice.

“A number of measures have already been put in place to deal with these crimes; and I am confident that we will be able to build upon our experiences and the expertise required to promote and protect the needs of vulnerable individuals and communities.”

The ‘Hate Crime Report 2007-2008’ is available on the CPS website.