Equality Network to train police officers in how to deal with homophobic hate crime.
A charity is working with the police to train 60 officers in how to deal with hate crime faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people.
The Equality Network, Scotland’s national LGBTI equality charity, will deliver a training programme aimed at helping Police Scotland support victims and increase confidence in law enforcement.
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 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.
Abuse and violent crime is still a reality for many LGBTI people. The majority of it does not get reported to the police
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.”
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.
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.