There has been an alarming surge in the number of homophobic and transphobic hate crimes recorded by UK police forces since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
According to new figures, after lockdown restrictions were eased this summer, anti-LGBT+ hate crime numbers soared to the highest level since the beginning of the pandemic.
Between January and August this year, at least 14,670 homophobic hate crimes were recorded in the UK. During the same period in 2020, there were 11,841, and the first six months of 2019 saw 10,817.
The third national lockdown began in January, 2021, and from January to April there were an average of 1,456 homophobic hate crimes reported per month, and 208 transphobic hate crimes.
As lockdown restrictions eased, this figure soared to 2,211 homophobic incidents per month from May to August, and 324 transphobic ones.
This year, reports of violent anti-LGBT+ hate crimes in the UK have felt endless.
Manchester and Liverpool have faced waves of homophobic attacks over the last year.
In the country’s capital this year, a gay man was murdered, his body found in a Tower Hamlets cemetery, while just last month a queer woman was left with a broken jaw following an attack in London’s West End.
Stonewall told LBC that even these shocking figures do not show the terrifying full picture of UK hate crimes because of under-reporting.
Stonewall’s associate director of policy and research, Eloise Stonborough, added: “LGBT+ people have struggled throughout the pandemic, with many not having access to vital support networks and spaces during lockdowns.
“It’s always worrying to see an increase in anti-LGBT+ hate crime, particularly at a time when our communities were more isolated than ever.”
Leni Morris, the chief executive of the LGBT anti-violence charity Galop, told The Guardian: “What we saw in the pandemic was LGBT+ people experiencing forms of abuse and violence that were either exacerbated by the pandemic itself or caused by it.
“We have some people who were victims of abuse and attacks because of being blamed for the pandemic itself, either because perpetrators thought the pandemic was an act of God – because of the existence of LGBT+ people – or because of the community’s association with the last major pandemic in people’s minds, and that’s the HIV/AIDS pandemic.”
The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) has promised that police will “always pursue action against perpetrators of hate crime where there is the evidence to do so”, but admitted that as many hate crime offences move online, prosecution has become increasingly difficult.