Vigil against Hate Crime – Trafalgar Square

It was a great privilege to represent the Government at the Vigil against Hate Crime last night in Trafalgar Square

A great number of people had come, despite the early rain, to stand and pay tribute to those who have died at the hands of the ignorant, bigoted, hateful and inadequate people who carry out hate crimes.

The event was first held to show support for the nail bomb attacks that took place in Brixton, Brick Lane and Soho in April 1999. It has now been widened to show support for all victims of hate crime.

My message direct to those there was to exhort them, their friends, colleagues, neighbours to report hate crime. The statistics we have are the tip of the iceberg. In 2008 Stonewall published Homophobic Hate Crime which set out starkly the level of hate crime experienced by gay and lesbian people – but more significantly o the prevalence of under-reporting.

– 1 in 5 gay and lesbian people have experienced a homophobic hate crime or incident in the last three years (2008)

– 3 in 4 did not report them to the police. Only 6% reported them to third parties

– 7 in 10 did not report hate crime and incidents to anyone.

In terms of transgender hate crime, research by Press for Change found that 73% of respondents to their 2007 survey of transgender people’s experience of discrimination experienced verbal abuse, threats, assaults and sexual abuse in public.

Whether it is the horrifying racial attacks, attacks on people with disabilities, trans-phobic or homophobic hate crime – the Government is committed to ensuring that everyone has the freedom to live their lives free from fear of targeted hostility or harassment on the grounds of a particular characteristic.

We are taking action to ensure that the criminal justice services and partners locally are equipped to prevent and tackle such targeted hostility.

The Coalition’s Programme for Government includes the commitment to promote better recording of hate crimes. This will help us to target our work more effectively and help the police to better focus resource.

We also plan to raise awareness of transgender issues and are currently working to implement these commitments.

Listening to the real experiences of those close to loved ones who had been murdered and to the sadly, very long, roll call of the names of those who had been killed by hate was very moving. Stuart Milk was one of the speakers. His uncle’s name and story – Harvey Milk – now well known and documented. I left more determined than ever to use the extraordinary opportunity I have been given as Minister for Equalities to best purpose.

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