Calls for law change after over 3,000 homophobic crimes in London last year

© Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Pride In London

The figures suggest there are 55 incidents every week.

There are calls for a law change surrounding homophobic hate crimes in London after figures showed they had increased by 55% over the past five years.

The figures showed that at the end of 2015, 2,016 crimes had been reported, but for last year that figure was now 3,111. The figures come against the backdrop that homophobic hate crimes across the country have more than doubled in the past five years.

One such incident involved Bradley Birkholz, a YouTuber and campaigner who told the BBC he’d moved from California to London for a “progressive paradise.”

However, he said he’d “found a city hostile towards any kind of difference whatsoever” and had been assaulted within two months of moving to the capital and has faced regular verbal abuse.

“I have to re-route my schedule to avoid parts of London with large drunk crowds because people are emboldened to harass LGBTQ+ people like me,” he admitted.

“I try to avoid the Tube at night but when I do take the Tube I use it in fear.”

Commenting on possible solutions, Bradley commented: “If people are held accountable for what they say and do I think we will see homophobia go down.”

In another high-profile incident, a same-sex couple, Melania Geymonat and Christine Hannigan, were violently attacked by a group of teenagers on a London bus after they refused to kiss for their pleasure.

Three of the teens charged with the attack pleaded guilty, two of them received their sentences last month.

London Mayoral candidates for later this year weighed in on the issue. The Conservative candidate, Shaun Bailey, said that he would campaign to make homophobic crimes an aggravated offence, bringing them in line with existing laws around racial and religious hatred.

“As someone who has experienced racial hate both on the streets and online, I stand in total solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community, many of whom suffer horrible and unacceptable abuse,” he said.

A spokesperson for the current London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, said that £6 million was being invested to tackle hate crimes of all kind, adding: “It is too simplistic to think that creating a new offence will solve the problem of bigotry and hate – and homophobia as an aggravating factor can already be taken into account when sentencing.”

Siobhan Benita, for the Liberal Democrats, said: “Making homophobic hate crime an aggravated crime in line with racial and religious hate has been our policy for many years.

“It’s ironic that one of the most shameful instances of homophobia came from the last Tory mayor of London, Boris Johnson.”

And Siân Berry for the Green Party, said: “Greens have been calling for an end to the hierarchy of hate crimes for years, so crimes motivated by a hatred of sexual orientation, disability or gender reassignment are treated equally to those against race and religion.

“There is a clear link between rising levels of hate crimes and thoughtless, inflammatory language by public figures like former mayor of London Boris Johnson, which makes bigots think they can get away with criminal behaviour.”

Related: Homophobic hate crime charges fall in UK despite dramatic rise in reports

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