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Last Updated: Monday, 25 June 2007, 05:55 GMT 06:55 UK
Gay crimes rise but not reported
Girls kissing (generic)
Police say they are 'actively engaging' with gay communities
Recorded crimes against gay and lesbian people in Wales are on the increase but most offences go unreported, a BBC Wales investigation has found.

As many as four out of five people from gay communities will be verbally abused at some time in their lives while three out of five will be assaulted.

But, it is claimed, most attacks go unreported because of victims' fears.

Stonewall Cymru has called for tougher laws to crack down on incitement to homophobic hatred.

BBC Wales' Eye on Wales programme found that reports of abuse and assault against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities, while on the increase, are thought to represent the tip of the iceberg.

The Home Office estimates around 90% of homophobic hate crime goes unreported.

I'm happy to say that things have vastly improved, but only recently improved
South Wales Police deputy chief constable Peter Vaughan

That is because victims are afraid of being "outed" to family, friends, colleagues and the community, or attracting retribution, or a general lack of confidence about how their case will be handed.

According to the programme the police, Crown Prosecution Service and others in the criminal justice system are aware of the problem and are working with gay rights group Stonewall Cymru to encourage more victims to come forward.

Anonymous reporting of incidents and the protection of victims' identities in court cases are among measures which have been introduced to help.

South Wales Police's deputy chief constable Peter Vaughan told the programme how attitudes have changed:

"With the police service, up until fairly recently legislation pushed us down an avenue we didn't necessarily want to go down.

Tougher laws

"You've gone from an organisation that a few years ago was unnecessarily prosecuting individuals for their sexual preferences, to one that is actively engaging our lesbian and gay communities to try and make things a little better.

"I'm happy to say that things have vastly improved, but only recently improved," he said.

Meanwhile Stonewall is urging tougher laws against incitement to homophobic hatred to send out a signal to society that such bigotry will not be tolerated.

Since 2005, homophobic intent can be taken into consideration as an aggravating feature when sentencing an offender, but there are currently no specific offences relating to homophobic hate crime, such as for crimes motivated by race or religious hatred.

Matthew Batten, Stonewall Cyrus's policy and public affairs officer, said: "Stonewall is campaigning for the government to including a new offence of incitement to hate crime on the grounds of sexual orientation."

Mr Batten said they would like the changes to be introduced in the forthcoming Criminal Justice Bill.

"It's something we know we've got widespread support for and will be lobbying very hard for," he said.

Eye on Wales is broadcast at 1830 BST on BBC Radio Wales on Monday.


SEE ALSO
Gay rights. Job done?
30 Apr 07 |  Magazine
Wales: Sexual orientation discrimination
22 Jun 06 |  Politics Show
Gays 'forced to quit jobs'
14 Oct 03 |  Wales

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