LGBTQ+ people in Scotland face repeated hate crime, new research finds

Scottish police car

Credit: Wikimedia Commons / Steven Straiton

Zara Ali
Writer

Scotland’s most comprehensive study of hate crime against LGBTQ+ people found 60% have been the victim of hate crime multiple times, and 20% have experienced it more than ten times.

The report on the survey of 1,445 people in Scotland was published by the Equality Network, a national charity working for LGBTQ+ equality and human rights in Scotland. The Scottish LGBTI Hate Crime Report 2017 was published in advance of Hate Crime Awareness week which took place in October.

Of the crimes suffered, verbal abuse and threats were the most frequent type, followed by physical attack, online abuse and sexual assault. The locations of these attacks were most common in public spaces such as streets, and public venues such as pubs and cafes.

Two thirds of lesbian, gay and bisexual people, and four fifths of trans people have been victims of hate crime. Nine out of ten of these victims have been the target of hate more than once. 18% of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people and 30% of trans people have been a victim on more than ten occasions.

According to the study, most hate crime is still not reported to the police, with 71% of victims not reporting any attacks they faced and only 5% reporting all of them. The most common reason being the victims thinking the crime was “not serious enough” for reporting, believing nothing would be done, hearing of the poor experience of other victims when reporting and the fear of possible consequences to the victim.

Of note, however, is that when a victim does report a hate crime, they are more likely to be satisfied with the help they receive from the police than victims of the past were, with 41% satisfied by police response and 39% dissatisfied. Comments from the respondents about reporting to the police varied. A heterosexual trans man between the ages of 16-24 commented, “They dealt with the incident very well, and let my partner and I know every step of the way what was going to happen”, while a gay man between the ages of 25-34 felt the Police offered “[a] slow response, unsympathetic officers, invasive and aggressive treatment of me as a victim and no charges ever brought”.

In cases where the crime reaches prosecution stage, only a quarter were satisfied with their experience with the Procurator Fiscal and 51% were dissatisfied. Respondents complained that communication and information were insufficient or completely absent from their experience with the Procurator Fiscal, and the had “minimal contact”, “little interaction” or were “still waiting” to hear what was happening with their case. The court process fared little better with 58% of respondents dissatisfied and 35% satisfied. Reasons given included the court process being a stressful and unpleasant experience, and the sheriff’s having a lack of awareness on LGBTQ+ issues.

Hannah Pearson, Policy Coordinator of the Equality Network, said: “Hate crime is a serious concern for many LGBTI people. We were shocked to find how many people have experienced repeated hate crime. These crimes are unacceptable in 21st century Scotland. Although the report makes for difficult reading, we hope that people will find it informative and useful, and together, we can work in tackling all forms of hate crime”.

The report concludes that a key challenge is to increase the reporting rate of hate crime, but this will only succeed if the victim’s experience with the criminal justice system is satisfactory. In order to reduce the incidence of hate crime, the underpinning law and national policy framework must be right, and the report looks to the Scottish Government to make to appropriate improvements here. It recommends better responses to hate crime by continuing LGBTI-specific training for police, the procurator fiscal service, sheriffs and judges, improving communication and availability of information to victims of crime. Community groups, LGBTI organisations and the Police should raise awareness and encourage reporting, and reliable information on hate crime should be published regularly.

Hannah Pearson added: “We welcome that we had the opportunity to train a national network of LGBTI Police Liaison Officers last year, but we know that further training in LGBTI issues is needed for all police, as well as Procurator Fiscal Service staff. Leadership against prejudice from the Scottish Government and local government, including education in schools, remains vital in preventing hate crime.”