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New initiative in Scotland trains police officers to fight hate crime and protect LGBTI citizens

New initiative in Scotland trains police officers to fight hate crime and protect LGBTI citizens

Scotland’s police force and Equality Network will be working hand in hand to train police officers to help prevent hate crime faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people in the country.

Equality Network, Scotland’s national LGBTI equality charity, describes in its press release that its training programme will cater to over 60 police officers at different locations around the country, with the aim to ‘support victims of hate crime, and increase public confidence in police.’

Once the first batch of police officers have completed their special training, they will become part of a new network of LGBTI Liaison Officers who can be contacted by members of the LGBTI community.

These officers will also be helping and advising their colleagues in the police force on LGBTI issues.

Voicing his support for the new programme, Superintendent Jim Baird of Police Scotland’s Safer Communities Department said: 

‘Tackling hate crime is a priority for Police Scotland. We are delighted to work with the Equality Network.

‘We hope that these specially trained officers will encourage more LGBTI people to come forward with the confidence in Police Scotland.’

Superintendent Jim Baird added that the police force takes all reports on hate crime very seriously and will conduct thorough investigations to ensure perpetrators are brought to justice.

According to the Scottish LGBT Equality Report compiled by Equality Network last July, nearly ‘half of the LGBT respondents had experienced or witnessed an incident of prejudice or discrimination in the past month, rising to 79% within the past year and 97% within their lifetimes.’

The report also found that transgender respondents were more likely to have experienced recent prejudice or discrimination, with 14% of the respondents said to have ‘experienced or witnessed an incident in the last 24 hours, almost half (45%) in the last week and 91% in the last year.’

In coordinated efforts to deliver a more extended outreach, Equality Network will also be providing training for staff of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.

Manager at Equality Network, Scott Cuthbertson, shared that the organisation would like to help victims of hate crime who are hesitant to go to the police:

‘We know too many LGBTI people are the victims of hate crime, but we also know that many, for whatever reason, still do not report hate crimes. We want to change that.

‘That’s why we are pleased to be working so closely with Police Scotland, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service and other criminal justice agencies to provide training on LGBTI issues and to work together to remove the barriers to reporting a hate crime.’

In tandem, LGBT Youth Scotland, the National charity for LGBT youths and young adults aged 13 – 25, will also start a programme across schools to support children and teachers to address homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying.

Fergus McMillan, Chief Executive of LGBT Youth Scotland commented: ‘More must be done to ensure that LGBTI people feel safe in their communities, understand their rights and how to report discrimination and harassment, and have the confidence to report.’

McMillan shared that only 50% of people surveyed said that they were aware of what their rights are under hate crime legislation.

In Scotland, sexual orientation aggravated crime is the second most common type of hate crime.

Equality Network sees that its range of initiatives as part of the National LGBT Hate Crime Partnership, which brings together 35 LGBT organisations from across England, Wales and Scotland, and is being delivered on behalf of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), and led by the LGBT Consortium.

Director of EHRC Scotland, Alastair Pringle, describes the police training programme as ‘a welcome step in tackling hate crime,’ and hopes that it will contribute to reaching the goal of making Scotland fairer for everyone.