Police plan special log to combat rise in anti-gay attacks

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The Independent Online
Attacks and abuse against gay people, including harassment and verbal insults, will be recorded separately for the first time by the police next year, under a monitoring scheme being drawn up by chief constables.

The police are concerned that homophobic violence is increasing - a recent survey found that more than a third of gay men and women have been victims of abuse - and wantgreater reporting to find out the true scale of the problem.

Crimes which are motivated by anti-gay feelings are not distinguished in police records. Under the new system the police plan to monitor homophobic violence in a similar way to racially motivated attacks.

Gay rights campaigners yesterday welcomed the move. It follows criticism that many officers are hostile towards gays, making them reluctant to go to the police.

National guidelines are being compiled by the Association of Chief Police Officers' community and race relations sub-committee. They will definewhat constitutes a homophobic attack, which offences should be recorded, and how officers should deal with them.

The report will be finished by February and is expected to be ratified by chief constables later in the year. The scheme, which has received widespread support, should be adopted by forces in England and Wales by the end of the year.

The draft scheme says that incidents should be recorded as anti-gay if the victim, the investigating police officers, or any other person involved, believe they were homophobic.

All offences that carry a jail sentence and all public order offences should automatically be recorded. The report also suggests that other less serious incidents, such as verbal abuse, harassment, jostling, anti- gay graffiti and literature should also be classified.

Inspector Stuart Brook, of West Yorkshire police, who are involved in devising the scheme, said: "We want to have anti-gay incidents monitored in a similar way to racial ones. At the moment we do not know the full scale of the problem.

"We hope the scheme will give the gay community the confidence to come to the police and will show that we are taking the matter seriously."

The Metropolitan Police have been running several pilot projects to monitor anti-gay incidents and similar schemes operate in Sussex and Greater Manchester. Such links have been useful in investigating murders such as those involving Colin Ireland, who was jailed in December 1993 for five murders of gay men.

A nationwide survey of 3,166 lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals, found that 35 per cent had suffered violent attacks at least once since 1990. About half of those aged under 18 had been victims.

Police are at present investigating the case of Tony Davies, 40, a father of two, who was found stabbed to death on Pensarn Beach, Abergele, North Wales, a known gay haunt, on Monday. A man was being questioned last night.

Angela Mason, director of Stonewall, the national lesbian and gay campaign group, said monitoring would increase police awareness of homophobic violence. She added: "At first, there will probably be a relatively low level of reporting, but if the lesbian and gay community gain confidence the police will find the figures rise significantly."