Human rights groups have warned that homophobic hate crime continues to be a serious problem in the UK. The warning came after two people were convicted this week of killing a gay man in a bigoted assault.
Ruby Thomas and Joel Alexander were found guilty of the manslaughter of Ian Baynham, whom they attacked in London's Trafalgar Square last year.
The case has disturbed stereotypical assumptions about the people who perpetrate violence. Thomas went to a fee-paying school and Alexander is a university student.
In the wake of the verdict, campaigners said that significant moves towards equality in recent years have not eradicated homophobic abuse from Britian's streets. Police in England, Wales and Northern Ireland recorded 4,805 reported case of homophobic hate crime in 2009.
Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said that homophobia is “alive and sometimes kicking”.
He said, “As more gay people come out and become visible, they present more targets for the violent homophobic minority who want to harm them”. But he added that the police have generally become more sympathetic to victims of homophobia.
Stonewall, the charity campaigning for the rights of gay, lesbian and bisexual people, said that schools need to do more to tackle homophobia.
Stonewall's Ben Summerskill explained, “The perpetrators of this homophobic crime were educated in Britain’s education system within the last five years – demonstrating how much more needs to be done to tackle homophobia in our schools before it festers into violence on the streets”.
Christian organisations including the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM) have repeatedly said that Christian leaders must speak out against hate crime and other forms of homophobic abuse.
Thomas and Alexander will be sentenced in the new year. Summerskill urged the judge “to take into consideration the homophobic element of this crime when sentencing”.