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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 November 2005, 19:56 GMT
Priest hurt in homophobic beating
The Rt Rev Dr Barry Rathbone
The Rt Rev Dr Barry Rathbone is openly gay
A priest has been beaten with a metal baseball bat in what police say was an unprovoked homophobic attack.

The Rt Rev Dr Barry Rathbone, 37, was sitting in Bournemouth Central Gardens eating a burger after a night out, when he was approached by a man and a woman.

The man began shouting homophobic abuse and hit Dr Rathbone, who is openly gay, leaving him with two broken ribs and several broken fingers.

He said his dog collar was hidden under a scarf at the time of the attack.

I admit I am an openly gay priest but [my sexuality] doesn't define me
Rt Rev Dr Barry Rathbone

Police said the assault, in the early hours, was "totally unprovoked".

Dr Rathbone, of Winton, is an International Community of St John the Divine priest for the Beacon Project at Boscombe's East Cemetery Chapel.

He told the BBC News website he had spent the evening at the Exchange gay bar when he was attacked on his way home.

The assailant also shouted expletives relating to Dr Rathbone's sexual orientation, he said.

"I admit I am an openly-gay priest but [my sexuality] doesn't define me," Dr Rathbone said.

"Being gay is just part of my personality. I don't look gay, if there is such a thing. I was just sat on a stone wall eating a burger."

Dr Rathbone, who is a well-known figure in the area where he works promoting safe sex in the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community, said he wanted others to learn from his experience.

'Cowardly attacker'

"I have chosen to have my name published [after the attack] because a lot of people know me and they can now put a face to the person that's been attacked.

"Quite often people empathise when they hear someone's been attacked, but they don't know them.

"Hopefully, by being named, it will make people more careful when they go out."

Det Con Trevor Hughes, of Bournemouth police, said: "It's quite likely that this cowardly attacker went out with the weapon looking to cause someone injury and it's vital that I speak with anyone who has any information at all about this incident."

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