Charges against a fourth teen were dropped.
Three teens have plead guilty, and one has been sentenced, for a homophobic attack on a couple, Melania Geymonat and Christine Hannigan, on a London bus back in May. The teens had targeted the couple with sexual gestures before assaulting them.
The four teens charged with the attack, who cannot be named for legal reasons, initially denied the charges, and were facing a two-day trial. However, on the day of the trial, before proceedings started, three teens, one aged 15, one aged 16 and one aged 17 admitted to the charges. The case against a fourth teen, aged 17, was dropped due to a lack of evidence.
In horrific CCTV footage shown to the court, the group of teenagers can be seen making sexual gestures toward the couple, with the 15-year-old making a scissoring gesture. The footage then cuts to the group standing over the couple, again making lewd gestures.
The footage then shows Hannigan confronting the group, before some members beat her. When Geymonat leaves her seat, she’s trailed before a teen lurches at her and she collapses.
Hannigan and Geymonat are then cornered on the seats, as they’re pelted with coins and prevented from escaping. One teen then swipes Hannigan’s pocketbook before fleeing. The final clip shows the girls attempting to confront the group as they leave, but another violent scuffle ensues.
The 15-year-old and 16-year-old both admitted to using threatening words or behaviour to cause harassment and distress. The 17-year-old also admitted the same charge, but denied his actions were motivated by homophobia.
In a special hearing held yesterday (29 November), the boy’s defence solicitor David Wood told the court: “He was 17 and just being stupid.
“They have got over excited in a puerile, immature way over the fact that these women were in some sort of relationship.”
However, district judge Susan Williams ruled that the attack had been motivated by homophobia. Speaking to the court, the judge said: “I am quite sure this was a hostile act. However, I also have to be sure that you were hostile because Ms Hannigan was a lesbian.
“In other words that you were picking on her because of who she was and not just fooling around. I have come to the short conclusion that that is exactly what you were doing.
“These two women were being pestered, harassed and intimidated because of who they were.”
The 17-year-old was then sentenced to a four month youth rehabilitation order, with a 20 hour repatriation requirement, and a two week curfew. The 16-year-old, who also admitted to sealing Mongayet’s handbag will be sentenced on 19 December, while the 15-year-old, who also pleaded guilty to handling stolen goods, will be sentenced on 23 December.
Anti-LGBTQ hate crimes have more than doubled in the past five years in the UK, increasing by 144% since 2013-2014.
Some campaigners have linked the rise in statistics to better reporting, but also warned that the rise could be linked to a rise in right-wing populism in England and Wales.
Taz Edwards-White, an alliance manager at the equalities and diversity organisation Metro, said: “There is a tension, and even within our own LGBT community there is a tension. I believe it’s a direct result of people feeling unsafe due to rise of the rightwing political movement.
“What we see in our services is lots of people experience day-to-day verbal attacks or violence and aggressive language and homophobic attitudes … We do believe the political climate has had an impact: people feel unsafe. What is happening in central government and all the scapegoating has an effect.”
And since 2016, anti-trans attacks in the UK have increased by a shocking 81%. 36 police forces supplied data surrounding hate crimes, and in 34 of those constabularies anti-trans attacks had increased. In the case for West Yorkshire Police and South Yorkshire Police, the amount of anti-trans crimes had trebled.
Wales saw anti-trans attacks more than double with 82 hate crimes reported last year, compared to 37 in 2016-2017. Meanwhile Police Scotland saw an increase from 76 to 92.