SDLP Belfast councillor Séamas de Faoite has said more needs to be done to tackle crime against the LGBT+ community.
He was speaking after the PSNI revealed the number of homophobic and transphobic motivated crimes reached the highest financial year figure since records began in 2004/05.
Homophobic hate incidents increased from 366 to 462, while crimes increased from 246 to 336 from April 1 2021 to March 31 2022. Transphobic hate incidents decreased from 71 to 65, but crimes increased from 34 to 42.
Councillor de Faoite said:
“There can be no doubt that we have come a long way in how our rainbow community is treated and viewed in Northern Ireland over the past few decades, but these damning figures show just how far we still have to go before people can feel respected, accepted and safe regardless of their sexuality or gender.
“I suspect the vast majority of people would assume homophobic and transphobe hate crimes are on the decline. In fact the opposite is true, these latest figures from the PSNI show that these crimes are at their highest level in over 15 years. That should make everybody sit up and take notice, we need to robustly tackle hate and those who spread it or we face the situation getting even worse in future.
“That includes delivering the long-awaited Sexual Orientation Strategy and Conversion Therapy Ban, which the Communities Minister failed to deliver in the last Assembly, despite promises to the contrary.
“Behind every one of these statistics is someone attacked, sometimes verbally, sometimes extremely violently, just for being themselves. It is hard to overstate how much of a negative impact this type of attack can have on somebody, particularly young people. People in our rainbow community are already more likely to suffer from mental health and other issues and incidents like this can make things so much worse.
“I welcome the efforts of LGBT+ organisations working with the police to tackle these issues and support victims but we need to see long overdue action from an incoming Executive on hate crime reform, the sexual orientation strategy, relationship and sexuality education and Trans healthcare if we are ever going to reduce these worrying statistics. I will continue my efforts to secure a permanent home for our rainbow community in Belfast and the LGBT+ organisations who continue to support victims so we can base their services in one central and accessible location to continue supporting the community.”