MP's bid to toughen gay-bashing penalties

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The Independent Online
TOUGHER sentences for people convicted of violent attacks on gays and lesbians are being proposed in an amendment to the Crime and Disorder Bill going through the Commons.

Richard Allan, Liberal Democrat MP for Sheffield Hallam, is proposing a clause modelled on existing proposals for race-hate attacks. He hopes Jack Straw, Home Secretary, will respond with his own amendment to the legislation. The clause is being sponsored by OutRage! and the new Equality Alliance, representing 160 organisations campaigning for gay and lesbian rights.

OutRage!'s Peter Tatchell said: "As well as cracking down on racial violence, the law also needs to come down heavily on queer-bashing assaults." John Hunt, another OutRage! spokesman, said: "Research shows one-third of lesbians and gay men have been beaten up by queer-bashers because of their homosexuality. Homophobic hate crimes wreck lives. Lesbian and gay people deserve the same protection as ethnic minorities. All perpetrators of crimes of prejudice should be punished with equal severity."

Under the clause proposed by Mr Allan, offences would be aggravated by evidence of hostility towards victims' sexual orientation, attracting increased sentences.

But aggravated offences would also be declared in open court, providing clear-cut information on the extent of homophobic crime.