Most LGBTQ+ people have, at some point, suffered a form of verbal of physical abuse because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. According to Stonewall, one in five LGBT+ people have experienced such abuse in the past 12 months.

Four in five of these hate crimes go unreported, especially by younger people. But what exactly counts as a hate crime? When should you report it? Hopefully by answering some of these questions, fewer of these incidents will slip under the radar.

We talked to a real-life police officer and LGBT+ Liason for MPS Southwark in London, Nick Waller, about hate crimes, and how to report them.

LGBT HERO: In the eyes of the police, what is a hate crime? Do you have to get beaten up for it to count?

Nick: Actually a hate crime is any crime the victim perceives to be a hate crime. There don’t have to be words spoken that are racist or homophobic, rather the victim has to believe they were attacked because of their race or sexuality. Hate crimes vary in nature; it could be a public order offence where for example, the victim is walking down the street and the suspect verbally abuses the victim. Even though no assault has taken place, a criminal offence has been committed.

LGBT HERO: Can you provide some examples of hate crimes, both minor and serious?

Nick: An example of one recent offence is a gay man out with female colleagues celebrating a hen night in SE1. The victim was in fancy dress and outside a bar. While chatting to the suspect, who he did not know, the suspect leapt at the victim and bit him on the forehead, causing a cut. No homophobic words were used, but the victim believes this was because he is gay and it has been treated as such.

Another example is of two gay men holding hands while walking in to a pub in Peckham. A former employee of the bar took exception to the couple holding hands and hit one of the men in the face with a glass, causing GBH injuries. Thankfully the suspect for that offence has been arrested and convicted and in prison now.

Another case is where a male suffering with mental health problems called us as his neighbour continually played loud music and he believed he was targeted because he is gay. He had self-harmed previously and wanted to talk to someone. Just talking helped him relieve the stress and I have called him on and off since first contacting him and he is just happy that someone takes the time to call him and check he is OK.

LGBT HERO: How should people go about reporting it?

Nick: In the first instance, if the crime is in progress and there is a threat to life or property then always call 999. If the crime has already happened and you are safely away from the person or people, then call 101 or report online via the met police website. An officer will meet you to take full details and an investigation will begin via our community safety unit. You will be fully supported by the police. The service has LGBT+ officers in pretty much every department and if you are happier speaking to an LGBT+ officer, this can be arranged.

LGBT HERO: What if they’re happening every day (such as to a trans person). Should they report every single one?

Nick: If the original crime has been reported, then the victim will have been allocated an OIC (officer in the case) and they can update the original report with that officer. If it’s a separate offender and different case, then it needs reporting on each occasion.

LGBT HERO: What would you say to reassure an LGBT+ person who is afraid that their report won’t be taken seriously?

Nick: The police service as a whole have had intense training in diversity over the years and if you have reported a crime you will be taken seriously. If you feel you haven’t been taken seriously, then you can contact your local LGBTQ liaison officer, who will be able to assist either by speaking to the OIC in person or by checking the report and update the victim with how the investigation has progressed or is progressing. 

LGBT HERO: How can an LGBT+ liason officer help and intervene in the reporting process?

Nick: Liaison officers check crime reports that have been made on a regular basis and are in a position to offer assistance to either the OIC, the victim or both. I have left my work email address with victims in case they wish to contact me direct and I believe Southwark police are committed to tackling hate crime. I use my own twitter account to try and promote and highlight LGBT+ issues and events particularly if it involves the metropolitan police. Again, this year police LGBT+ liaison officers will be at London pride working in the crowds and speaking with the community.

LGBT HERO: What support can the police offer someone who has been a victim of hate crime?

Nick: The community safety unit have contacts with GALOP, an organisation that offers external help to the police and victims of hate crime. As a liaison officer in Southwark, I can say that hate crimes are taken seriously and robustly investigated.

If you've been affected by a hate crime, then help is out there:

Galop provides assistance to LGBT+ people who have experienced hate crime, sexual violence or domestic abuse. Galop is not connected to the police and can help you through the process of reporting and fight your corner. Head to their website, or call them on 020 7704 2040.

Got a hate crime story you want to share? Email [email protected].