CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Austerity helping to fuel gay hate, says LGBT forum organiser

Nobody has been charged after two women were beaten up on a bus earlier this month

26 June, 2019 — By Samantha Booth

Camden Council is sending an official delegation to Pride later this month

DIVISIONS caused by austerity cuts and Brexit have played a part behind an increase in homophobic hate crimes in Camden, one of the organisers of Camden’s LGBT forum believes.

Tessa Havers-Strong, who is executive and governance officer at forum+, said the reasons behind statistics on hate crimes are “very complex”, including an increase in reporting to police.

But she added that she thought people had become less tolerant in society as they dealt with the stresses of having less money and amid the Brexit arguing.

“It’s generally accepted as well there are societal things going on,” said Havers-Strong. “My personal opinion is that it could be due to austerity and hardship, so when people are faced with those conditions, there is just less tolerance all round. And so that’s what we are seeing.”

Tessa Havers-Strong from forum+

Camden Council is to have an official delegation in the Pride march in central London later this month with councillors and staff joining in.

Local politicians will also discuss the hate crime faced by the borough’s LGBT community at the next all-member meeting following an attack on two women travelling home from a night out in Camden three weeks ago.

The victims were left with wounds to their faces after bring beaten and robbed on a night bus in West Hampstead.

Nobody has been charged over the incident, although five teenagers were arrested and later bailed. Last year saw 115 reported homophobic hate crimes in Camden – the highest number since 2011.

Ms Havers-Strong said: “Part of it will be due to increased reporting, the fact that right across all the different strands through race and faith, people are now prepared to report hate crimes. There’s cuts going on right across the board, salaries are not necessarily going up, so people are feeling it in their pocket, and I think that sense of community wellbeing diminishes.”

She added: “Unfortunately, throughout history, it’s always the vulnerable and people on the margins who are victimised first. “It has been a conversation and there’s the view that the country itself, post-referendum, has become more divided and there’s a lot more anger being expressed, both online and in general.”

The latest data shows the number of incidents has been creeping up.

Ms Havers-Strong said: “For a lot of clients coming to us it’s chronic low-level harassment on housing estates – it’s more like anti-social behaviour but it’s consistent and that’s been on the increase, certainly since 2016. It’s neighbourhood harassment, essentially, and it could be because the client basis we are getting have other issues as well – there might be other factors involved, mental health or physically disabled, so there’s quite of a bit on intersectionality going on and then what happens the homophobic element comes in as well after that.”

She added: “I think a lot of those stats coming through on the [Met Police’s] hate crime dashboard are public order offences where it could be verbal abuse on the streets and completely random.”

She added that work is ongoing with Camden and Islington councils and police, including training officers to become aware of LGBT issues, as well as work within schools.

Transgender hate crimes have also risen last year, partly, Ms Havers-Strong said, because there is a “growing confidence” in reporting of crimes.

The Met Police said: “The MPS stands together with policing partners, colleagues and groups to investigate all hate crime allegations, support victims and their families, and bring perpetrators to justice.”

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