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Police to record hate crimes against LGBT

Police are to begin recording instances of hate crimes perpetrated against members of the island's LGBT community, The Royal Gazette can reveal.

The Bermuda Police Service's quarterly and annual crime statistics do not include information about crimes motivated by homophobic prejudice — or indeed any other prejudice, such as racial — but a spokesman told this newspaper there were plans to change that.

“We do not have records of hate crime against LGBT persons,” the spokesman said. “It is something we are working towards.”

Senator Jeff Baron, the Minister of National Security, said he welcomed the initiative. “I would fully support the intention of the law enforcement community to consider gathering and analysing specific data on hate crimes reported here at home,” he said.

Mr Baron added: “While detailed statistics should be a matter for the BPS ... all hate crimes should be considered serious, including homophobic hate crimes. We recognise that such occurrences happen around the world; a recent example is the Orlando nightclub shooting in June.

“And it's very concerning that here at home, members of the LGBT community fear abuse or an act of violence being directed at them because of their sexual orientation. No one should feel like that in a country they call home. So, certainly, I condemn any crimes committed by or towards these members of our community.

“As minister, I will continue to help protect all community members from violence, regardless of what they look like, who they love, where they pray.”

Law enforcement agencies in many jurisdictions around the world collect data on hate crimes.

The New York Times reported this year, for example, that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people were the most likely targets of hate crimes in the United States, according to an analysis of data collected by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The data showed that LGBT people were twice as likely to be targeted as blacks and the number of hate crimes against them had surpassed that of crimes against Jews.

In Britain, The Independent reported in October 2015 on a spike in homophobic attacks, based on figures released by the Home Office.

The data showed that police forces had recorded 52,528 hate crimes for a 12-month period between 2014 and 2015, more than 80 per cent of which were believed to be motivated by racial prejudice.

Forces in England and Wales recorded 5,597 hate crimes against gays and lesbians for the same period, an increase of 22 per cent on the previous 12 months. Several sources who spoke to this newspaper on condition of anonymity said many victims of homophobic attacks in Bermuda were unlikely to reveal their sexual orientation to the authorities because of the prejudices that exist here.

But occasional cases of homophobic hate crime have come to court, including one in 2008, when a 26-year-old man was jailed for cutting a 25-year-old man's face with a machete.

Last year, a sexual orientation discrimination case went before a tribunal of the Human Rights Commission when Desai Jones, 41, was accused of trying to intimidate bus driver Mark Anderson by posting a string of anti-gay statements on his Facebook page.

Mr Jones told the tribunal he was brought up in a Christian household and believed homosexuality was an abomination. The case was dismissed because the panel concluded that the Human Rights Act did not prohibit written discrimination on any grounds other than racial.

Jeff Baron

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Published October 27, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated October 27, 2016 at 2:50 am)

Police to record hate crimes against LGBT

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