Tougher Penalties for Homophobic Hate Crimes

Proposed Amendment to the Crime & Disorder Bill

Richard Allan MP (Liberal Democrat, Sheffield Hallam) last Friday (8th May) tabled an OutRage!-sponsored amendment to crack down on the perpetrators of homophobic violence.

The amendment to the Crime & Disorder Bill is expected to be debated this week by the Standing Committee of 24 MP’s that is currently scrutinising the Bill.

The new Equality Alliance, representing over 160 organisations campaigning for lesbian and gay human rights, has written to all 24 members of the Standing Committee, urging them to back the amendment. It has also written to the Home Secretary, Jack Straw, and four other Home Office Ministers.

OutRage! believes it can win substantial support for the amendment among backbench Labour, Liberal Democrat and Scottish Nationalist MP’s.

“We are seeking support from MP’s of all parties and hope to mobilise enough support from backbenchers to get this amendment carried”, said Peter Tatchell of OutRage! “We urge people to write to their MP’s requesting them to support this amendment.

“Even if our amendment is not successful, getting it debated in Parliament will help raise awareness about antigay attacks.”

The OutRage! amendment extends the Bill’s new penalties for racist attacks to crimes of violence against lesbians and gay men, providing tougher sentences for prejudice-motivated offences.

“We believe all hate crimes should be treated with equal severity”, said Tatchell. “As well as cracking down on racial violence, the law also needs to come down heavily on queer-bashing assaults.”

“A survey by Stonewall published in 1996 showed that 34% of gay men and 24% of lesbians had experienced violence within the past five years because of their sexuality”, said John Hunt of OutRage!. “One in four of those attacked had to seek medical attention; and 79% suffered stress or fear following the attack.

“Other research, including a Home Office report, has found similar or even higher figures. Extrapolating these results would suggest that throughout the U.K. over a million gay people have suffered homophobic violence. Homophobic hate crimes wreck lives. Lesbian and gay people deserve the same protection as ethnic minorities. All perpetrators of crimes of prejudice should be punished with equal severity”, said Hunt.