Police Scotland and the Equality Network are to work together to train more than 60 officers to help prevent hate crime faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people.
The Equality Network, Scotland’s national LGBTI equality charity, will deliver a training programme for police at locations around the country that will help Police Scotland support victims of hate crime, and increase public confidence in police.
Once they have completed the training, police officers will become part of a new network of LGBTI Liaison Officers who can be contacted by members of the LGBTI community. The officers will also be able to help and advise their colleagues across Police Scotland on LGBTI issues.
As part of a coordinated programme of work, the Equality Network will also provide training for Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service staff, while LGBT Youth Scotland will roll out a programme across schools in Scotland to support children and teachers to address homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying.
These initiatives are part of the National LGBT Hate Crime Partnership which brings together 35 LGBT organisations from across England, Wales and Scotland, and is being delivered on behalf of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), and led by the LGBT Consortium.
Superintendent Jim Baird of Police Scotland’s Safer Communities Department said: “Tackling hate crime is a priority for Police Scotland. We are delighted to have worked with the Equality Network. Research and studies show hate crime against the LGBTI community is often under reported. We hope that these specially trained officers will encourage more LGBTI people to come forward with the confidence in Police Scotland to help reverse this trend.”
Supt Baird added: “If anyone feels they have been the victim of, or witness to, a crime which is motivated by malice or ill will because of sexual orientation or gender identity they should report it to us directly, online or through a Third Party Reporting site.
“We take all such reports very seriously and will conduct thorough investigations to ensure perpetrators are brought to justice.”
Scott Cuthbertson of the Equality Network added: “We know too many LGBTI people are the victims of hate crime, but we also know that many, for whatever reason, still do not report hate crimes. We want to change that.
“That’s why we are pleased to be working so closely with Police Scotland, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service and other criminal justice agencies to provide training on LGBTI issues and to work together to remove the barriers to reporting a hate crime.”
Fergus McMillan, Chief Executive of LGBT Youth Scotland said: “More must be done to ensure that LGBTI people feel safe in their communities, understand their rights and how to report discrimination and harassment, and have the confidence to report.
“Despite strong legislation in Scotland, harassment, verbal abuse and violent crime is still a reality for many LGBTI people. The majority of it does not get reported to the police.
“LGBT Youth Scotland’s recent safety report highlighted that around half of all LGBT respondents would not feel confident reporting a crime to the police, and only 50% said that they were aware of what their rights are under hate crime legislation.
“We are currently working with a range of partners, including Equality Network, to increase the reporting of homophobic, biphobic and transphobic hate crimes and incidents and improve the support available to those targeted.”
In Scotland, sexual orientation aggravated crime is the second most common type of hate crime, but research shows that many people do not report incidents to the police.
Alastair Pringle, director of EHRC Scotland, said, “While attitudes towards the Scottish LGBTI community have undoubtedly improved over the years, our recent report into the state of equalities in Scotland, Is Scotland Fairer, shows that hate crime is still a serious issue.
“The training programme is a welcome step in tackling hate crime and will hopefully increase people’s confidence in the police to recognise and report it. This is the kind of excellent work which will contribute to reaching our goal of making Scotland fairer for everyone.”
The number of charges for sexual orientation aggravated crime has risen since hate crime legislation came into effect in Scotland in March 2010, to stand at 841 in 2014-15. While reporting of transphobic hate crime remains low at 21 charges in 2014-15, there is evidence of significant under-reporting.
A recent report by the Equality Network found that almost half of LGBT respondents had experienced or witnessed an incident of prejudice or discrimination in the past month, rising to 79% within the past year and 97% within their lifetimes.
The Scottish LGBT Equality Report also found that transgender respondents were more likely to have experienced recent prejudice or discrimination. One out of seven respondents (14%) had experienced or witnessed an incident in the last 24 hours, almost half (45%) in the last week and 91% in the last year.
More information on hate crime and how to report it can be found on the Police Scotland website.