A network of specialist police officers to deal with hate crime is to be developed by Police Scotland with the help of equality charity the Equality Network.
The two organisations will work together to train more than 60 officers to help prevent hate crime faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people.
The Equality Network will deliver a training programme for police at locations around the country that will help Police Scotland support victims of hate crime, and increase public confidence in police. Once they have completed this training, the 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.
Further training will be provided for Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service staff, as part of a coordinated programme of work, while LGBT Youth Scotland will roll out a schools programme to support children and teachers in addressing homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying.
The 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 & Human Rights Commission (EHRC), and led by the LGBT Consortium.
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 number of charges for sexual orientation aggravated crime has risen since hate crime legislation came into effect in Scotland in March 2010.
Superintendent Jim Baird of Police Scotland’s Safer Communities Department commented: “Research and studies show hate crime against the LGBTI community is often underreported. 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.”
He added: “We take all such reports very seriously and will conduct thorough investigations to ensure perpetrators are brought to justice.”
Alastair Pringle, director of EHRC Scotland, said: “While attitudes towards the Scottish LGBTI community have undoubtedly improved over the years, our recent report into the state of equalities in Scotland, Is Scotland Fairer, shows that hate crime is still a serious issue.
“The training programme is a welcome step in tackling hate crime and will hopefully increase people’s confidence in the police to recognise and report it. This is the kind of excellent work which will contribute to reaching our goal of making Scotland fairer for everyone.”