Patrick Strudwick

In Britain today those who beat, threaten and kill gay people are getting away with it

They are routinely awarded derisory sentences, laughable fines and, in some cases, the gift of unpunished freedom.

They are let off, excused and free to attack again. The hate crimes initiatives are flailing. The justice system is failing.

When Mohammed Hasnath, an 18-year-old Muslim from east London, posted stickers up around his area calling for a “gay free zone” and warning that Allah is “severe in punishment” of homosexuality he was given a £100 fine. Such a ludicrous amount provoked widespread anger. But this case pales in comparison to other recent rulings.

In January, Ruby Thomas, who screamed “fucking faggots” at 52-year-old Ian Thomas, before repeatedly stamping on his head – while grinning - was jailed not for murder but for manslaughter. She had jumped on his face again and again as Ian lay in Trafalgar Square unconscious and fitting with blood pouring from his eyes and ears and nose. The criteria for being charged for manslaughter rather than murder is either diminished responsibility or provocation. Ruby Thomas wasn’t provoked. She was drunk. She could be roaming the streets again in less than three years. But where was the public outcry?

Her accomplice, Joel Alexander, who enabled the killing by knocking Ian to the ground causing a severe brain injury, wasn’t even tried for attempted murder. He received a sentence a year less than Thomas.
This isn’t criminal justice. It’s just criminal.

But they aren’t the only attackers avoiding lengthy prison terms. Others do so simply by claiming that their victim made a pass at them or attempted to steal from them.

In December, James Foley was convicted of the manslaughter of Fathi Boucherab. They met at a straight strip club but Foley lured Bouchareb to a nearby garden with the promise of sex, where Foley instead strangled him with a scarf. His sentence? Three and a half years. Why so short? Foley’s barrister claimed that Bouchareb had tried to steal his watch.

Again there was no outrage. Why? Have we completely lost faith in the police and the justice system? Or have we become so depressed by the frequency of these events that we feel powerless to do anything about it?

This latter explanation seems plausible. In London alone, the last four years has seen a 28 per cent rise in homophobic crime. But if you think that the courts might have responded to this with vigour you’d be disappointed.

In April, new DNA evidence led to the conviction of a man who, in 1990, had broken into the house of a lesbian couple and forced them into performing a sex attack on him. The defendant, Anthony Burrows, has a history of sex crimes. His sentence? Twelve months.

In September, Alexander Kindred, 18, was cleared of an assault on a football fan, claiming he had acted in self-defence. But Kindred was only free to commit this alleged attack because a previous hate crime trial had punished him so leniently. In 2009, Kindred had punched James Kerr, 51, in a park in Scotland before phoning two friends to tell them that Kerr had come on to him. The two friends beat Kerr to death. Kindred, who was 15 at the time of the attack, was given just one year in a young offenders institution. He claimed that Kerr had propositioned him for sex. The so-called “gay panic defence” is alive and well.

And last May, a group of seven Liverpudlian teenagers attacked a 19-year-old student, punching him, shouting homophobic abuse at him, and leaving him covered in blood. Only one of the seven - a 14-year-old - was convicted. The others weren’t even prosecuted because the Crown Prosecution Service thought that there wasn’t enough evidence. There was CCTV footage of the attack.

Similarly, when gay trainee policeman James Parkes was viciously beaten by a gang of 15 youths, in the same city, just weeks before, not one of the attackers were even charged, let alone convicted. The case collapsed, said the police, again, due to “insufficient evidence”.

Is it any wonder the police and the justice system are failing us? When gay people report homophobic crimes they are routinely met with bafflement, bemusement or indifference. One man told me how the police “weren’t bothered” when he reported having his wrist broken in three places in a bashing on Old Compton Street. And eighteen months ago I phoned the police after a group of men outside my house threatened to attack me. “Fix your walk or your gonna get fucked,” said one, repeatedly. The police sergeant who later phoned me asked, “Well, do you have a particularly flamboyant walk?”

Twenty-one years ago Outrage! was formed after a group of gay people felt that something had to be done about the inaction over homophobic hate crimes.

We can’t let their good work be trampled on by a new generation of apathetic judges and feeble police officers. We must speak out and demand that the courts and police do more to bring our abusers to account. Picture Ian Baynham, haemorrhaging and fitting, and imagine it’s your boyfriend or your best friend or you. Would you let justice go unserved?

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