Homophobia: the forgotten hate crime

New report says that the abuse and violence suffered by lesbians and gay men is on the rise

Michael Causer's only crime was to be openly gay. For this the trainee hairdresser was dragged from his bed last July and viciously beaten. His piercings were forcibly removed with a knife, according to some witnesses. He died nine days later in hospital from brain injuries.

Tomorrow James O'Connor, 19, will be sentenced after admitting the murder of the 18-year-old in Liverpool, in a case which, campaigners say, illustrates a rising and little-reported tide of homophobia in Britain.

New research to be published next week reveals widespread anecdotal evidence that gay and lesbian people experience severe daily harassment and abuse which they do not report to the police. The survey shows that, although society's attitude towards gay and lesbian people appears to be more tolerant, bubbling beneath the surface, and often unreported, is a stream of abuse and harassment.

Earlier this month, Gerald Edwards, 59, was stabbed to death in the home in Bromley, Kent, that he shared with his partner, Chris Bevan, who was seriously injured in what police believe was a homophobic attack.

Next week's report, published by the charity Galop, the Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence and Policing Group and the Metropolitan Police, found that homophobic hate crime is seriously under-reported, partly because of out-of-date contact numbers and addresses, but also because of fears of reprisals and a belief that the police don't take them seriously.

But those incidents that are reported to lesbian and gay groups can take place in daylight, often feature casual violence and verbal abuse, and frequently take the form of persistent bullying from neighbours. Researchers found that nearly half of all victims reporting to lesbian and gay organisations knew their aggressor.

Over a quarter of all incidents involved physical violence. Figures from the Met show that in the last year reported homophobic hate crime in London has risen by more than 5 per cent, from 1,008 to 1,062 incidents. London's gay and lesbian population is thought to stand at around 750,000.

National figures on homophobic incidents are not collected by the Home Office, however. A survey by Stonewall, the gay rights charity, published last year found that one in five gay people had been the victim of a hate crime in the last three years.

Stonewall also published a report earlier this month which revealed a "deeply alarming" amount of homophobia in schools. The report is the largest survey of both primary and secondary schoolteachers on the issue of homophobic bullying.

Called The Teachers' Report, it showed that around 150,000 pupils are affected by anti-gay bullying. Not only are children who are thought to be gay victims of name-calling and abuse, but pupils are picked out because they are boys who work hard or girls who play sport or because they have gay parents.

Nine in 10 secondary school teachers and two in five primary school teachers said pupils experience homophobic bullying, even if they are not gay.

Deborah Gold, chief executive of Galop, said: "Homophobic and transphobic crime is certainly not going down. Whether it's going up or whether there's increased reporting is hard to say. But it is as significant a problem as it always has been.

"On the face of it there's increased acceptance [of gay people], but when you look at homophobic bullying in schools or the abuse people face when they are leaving their homes from neighbours or kids shouting at them, it's a significant problem."

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