Homophobic violence in the UK appears to be on the rise, with figures released by the London Metropolitan Police showing an 18 percent increase in attacks on GLBT people.
So far this year, 1192 homophobic crimes have been reported to London police, compared to 1008 in 2008.
The issue has been brought to national attention by the murder of Ian Baynham, a 62-year-old civil servant attacked by three teenagers in Trafalgar Square after getting off a bus. Baynham later died in hospital.
Thousands of Londoners attended a vigil at Trafalgar Square on October 30, where a letter of support from Prime Minister Gordon Brown was read out.
“As you gather this evening to share your grief and to bear witness to the intolerance which caused it, I wanted to send my appreciation to you for having the courage to act even in the midst of your sorrow,” Brown wrote. “Perhaps the cruellest impact of hate crime is the loneliness and fear which it inspires in the communities it targets.”
British activist Peter Tatchell told Sydney Star Observer the London statistics were part of a national trend.
“The UK seems to be going through a new wave of anti-gay hate crimes. Since April there has been a 14 percent rise nationwide in attacks on LGBT people”, Tatchell said.
“Ironically, as LGBT people become more visible and less willing to hide themselves, we also become more easily identifiable and vulnerable to the homophobic hardcore who hate us. ”
The NSW Anti-Violence Project’s Nancy de Castro said the number of reports it receives had dropped this year, but last year’s numbers were the result of heightened community concern.
“Reports to the AVP increased in 2008 because of the high level of community mobilisation around the problem of homophobic violence on Oxford St and its surrounds,” de Castro said.
“These UK statistics are a powerful illustration of why it’s vital that the GLBT community report homophobic attacks first and foremost to police, and to the AVP.”
The AVP and NSW Police are developing a campaign to encourage reporting to the police and the AVP, due to be launched in January.

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