EDINBURGH, Scotland -- New statistics from Stonewall Scotland show that most lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Scotland have been a victim of hate crime.
Two thirds have been verbally abused because they are LGBT, and a third have been physically attacked. But 88 percent of those verbally attacked did not report it to the police and 61 percent of those physically attacked did not report it.
The figures, from a new report by Stonewall Scotland, show a quarter of those surveyed said they would not report verbal abuse because it was just part of life as an LGBT person in Scotland.
The figures come as the Offences (Aggravation by Prejudice) Act 2009 – the Scottish law that means homophobic and transphobic crimes are recognized by the legal system and treated appropriately – comes into force. The act will be implemented on Wednesday, March 24.
To help address the problem of under reporting, Stonewall Scotland has offered every Scottish police force rainbow flag stickers to show to the public that the police force has made a commitment to equality for everyone and to taking reports of hate crime seriously.
The stickers have the slogan “Making Scotland Safer Together” and are supported by ACPOS and police forces across Scotland. They are accompanied by postcards for staff and members of the public which explain why they are displayed.
“Too many people in Scotland experience hate crimes – and many don’t report it, because they think it won’t make a difference or because it happens on such a regular basis,” said Carl Watt, director of Stonewall Scotland. “A quarter told us they accept the abuse and the attacks as part of being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender in Scotland.
“As this new law tackling hate crime comes into force, we’re working with the police to give people the confidence to come forward and report crime, and show perpetrators that attacking someone, physically or verbally, because of their sexual orientation or gender identity is not acceptable in a modern Scotland. “
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill weighed in.
"There is no excuse for any form of hate crime; it is simply not acceptable and it will not be tolerated. When it does happen, victims must have the confidence to report it, confident that they will receive a good level of service from the police and other agencies,” he said.
"That is exactly why we’ve got this new legislation coming into force which will rightly put these kinds of crimes on the same footing as racist incidents. This sends out a strong message that hate crime against LGBT and disabled people will not be tolerated. These kinds of measures are absolutely crucial, but we also want to tackle the root causes of the prejudice and discrimination which underpins bullying, or hate crime towards LGBT and disabled people,” MacAskill said.
"We want to exceed the requirements of the anti-discrimination legislation, and to develop proactive policy and practice which actively promotes equality and inclusion for LGBT and disabled people in Scotland. This aspiration is based on a fundamental belief in the value of equality for all of our country."
Chief Constable Ian Latimer, ACPOS lead on Equality and Diversity Business Area, showed his support.
“ACPOS acknowledges the Stonewall Scotland survey and notes the concerns highlighted by some of the LGBT people who responded to this,” he said.
“Hate crime in any form is unacceptable and this helps to highlight the importance of the enhanced powers given to police in Scotland through the new legislation which will be launched tomorrow (March 24) by the COPFS and ACPOS.
“Forces across Scotland take hate crime very seriously and are proactively developing policy and practice to address discrimination. There are many local initiatives in place which seek to build trust with LGBT groups and with other people at risk of discrimination in their communities,” Latimer said.
“We trust that these measures, in addition to the new legislation, will give all victims the confidence to report crime and know that they will receive a high quality police response.”