Scottish charity Equality Network launched a campaign yesterday to train more than 60 police officers in tackling hate crime against LGBTI people.
Around 60 officers are being trained to become lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) liaisons for Police Scotland.
Part of their new role will include advising other officers on issues which affect the LGBTI community.
Research shows that while crime provoked by sexual orientation is the second most common hate crime in Scotland it often goes unreported.
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.”
LGBT Youth Scotland (LGBTYS) will go into schools across Scotland to support students and teaching staff in addressing homophobic and transphobic bullying.
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.”
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.
Police Scotland was recently named Scotland’s most improved employer by LGBT organisation Stonewall.
The initiatives are part of the national LGBT hate crime partnership, which brings together 35 organisations from across the UK.