CRIME chiefs last night promised to target gay-hate thugs as attacks tripled in the past two years.
Prosecution bosses fear homophobic crimes are still going unreported, despite a new team cracking down on the offence.
And they vowed to plead for courts to hand out tougher penalties to those convicted of attacks against gays, lesbians and transsexuals.
North Wales Crown Prosecution Service revealed there were 31 hate crimes referred by North Wales Police in the last 12 months. Of those, 24 people were prosecuted. Two years ago, just 10 hate crimes were reported.
The CPS urged victims of a hate-related verbal or physical attack to contact police.
It comes as one man told how homophobic hate crime forced him to contemplate suicide.
Bill King says he’s been verbally abused and assaulted.
He said: “My life became so unbearable that I have contemplated taking my own life because of the constant hate crime and homophobic remarks. It has been a living nightmare.”
He admits: “I have suffered in silence for too long. I want to go public because I just can’t take any more.”
He says the abuse has mainly happened since he was allocated a Conwy council flat. A local called him a freak and said he “should never have been given the flat”.
When he reported it to the police, he was told nothing could be done because it was “my word against his”.
On another occasion, he has been branded a “faggot”, and was knocked out by a thug on Conwy Quay while walking his dog at 1.15am.
The CPS’ year-old Homophobic and Transphobic Hate Crime Scrutiny Panel includes people from a diverse range of communities who examine hate crime and raise awareness of how the CPS makes prosecution decisions.
District Crown Prosecutor Gerallt Evans said: “There is under-reporting of hate crimes but it’s difficult to quantify. That said, all the evidence we receive suggests it is the case – there are people committing homophobic crimes out there who are not being brought to the attention of police.
“We would be looking to continue increases we’ve seen in the number of prosecutions. Over the last three years we’ve seen a threefold rise – we’re bringing more homophobic offenders to justice.
He added: “The type of incident varies. The majority tend to be verbal abuse but we’ve had cases which involve violence against people, with a clear homophobic motivation.
“If this happens people should call the police because it is being taken seriously. We will pick the cases up and if it goes through to court and we’re satisfied there is a homophobic element to the crime, then it can lead to an increased sentence. In general you can see a rise of a third to a quarter on a sentence because of that homophobic element.”
Ed Beltrami, Chief Crown Prosecutor, said: “Considering the panel has only been operating for a year, the progress made has been excellent.
“Many lessons have already been taken on board and relayed to CPS staff and to our partners in the Criminal Justice System.”
Panel member Jenny Porter, Community Liaison Officer for Stonewall Cymru, said: “This has been a very valuable experience, although it’s hard work. Over the year I have learnt a lot about how the criminal justice system works, which has contributed to the production of the Stonewall Cymru Guide for victims of homophobic hate crime.
“We have also been able to raise awareness on the issues for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the criminal justice system and the CPS staff have taken those points on board.”
Greg George, North Wales Police Diversity Manager, added: “The panel is an excellent opportunity to review and track the management of homophobic and transphobic hate crime through the criminal justice process.”
If you would like to join the panel write to the CPS at Bromfield House, Ellice Way, Wrexham, LL13 7YW. Victims of hate-related crime can call North Wales Police on 0845 607 1002/1, LGB Cymru for advice on 0800 023 2201, or visit www.lgbtcymruhelpline.org.uk.