Police forces across the UK have reported a rise in the number of homophobic crimes this year – with the biggest increases in London, Greater Manchester, South Wales, and Northern Ireland.
Hundreds of lesbian and gay people have been assaulted so far this year. LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender) charities have responded by saying it was “encouraging” that more people were reporting hate crimes, but said many victims felt “silenced” by abuse on the street.
Some 19 police forces recorded more attacks which were motivated by a person’s sexuality between January and October 2014, when compared with the whole of last year.
In London alone, the Metropolitan Police recorded 1,073 violent homophobic offences between January and October – up 66 from 1,007 last year, a Freedom of Information request by the Press Association uncovered.
The overall figure for the capital for 2014 included 315 assaults, and 747 harassment offences - which saw a sharp rise from 693 last year.
Greater Manchester Police recorded 278 violent homophobic offences between January and October, up from 231 in 2013; while South Wales Police recorded 162 violent crimes motivated by a person's sexual orientation between January and October, up from 132 last year.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) revealed that homophobic crimes had increased year on year since 2006/2007. In 2013/2014, 280 incidents were recorded by the force - up from 245 in 2012/2013 and 200 in 2011/2012. This included 133 violent homophobic crimes this year
Avon and Somerset Police, Suffolk, South Yorkshire, Devon and Cornwall, North Wales, Kent, Bedfordshire, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Hertfordshire, Durham, Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Cambridgeshire police forces also reported a rise in violent crimes which were homophobic or motivated by a person's sexual orientation.
However, other areas saw a drop in attacks related to sexuality, with fewer crimes reported to Cheshire Police and Lancashire Police.
Lesbian, gay and bi-sexual rights charity Stonewall has urged authorities to “continue to take this type of vile abuse seriously” and praised the “courage” of victims and witnesses who report incidents to the police.
"Hate crime is a key area of our work at Stonewall and our campaigns aim to not just encourage individuals to report attacks, but also for the police to try and make people feel more at ease with approaching them.
"“We know, in the past, many have been hesitant to report crimes to the police for fear of the consequences," he added.
Nick Antjoule from Galop, the anti-violence charity, highlighted the amount of “crimes [which] remains hidden”.
“Each year the police record over 4,000 homophobic crimes, but that's dwarfed by the 39,000 homophobic crimes that happen every year in this country according to government estimates.
"Some of our clients put up with harassment for years before contacting us for help," he added.
Chief Constable Jane Sawyers, national policing lead for LGBT issues, said: "Targeting someone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity is totally unacceptable.
"This abuse affects people's right to feel safe, secure and confident about themselves.
He added: "Police forces across the UK are committed to reducing hate crime and improving services to victims."