Crack down on hate crimes

International News Notes

by Andy Harley, UK Gay News    
Published: May 30, 2009 in Beyond the Carolinas

Crack down on hate crimes
LONDON — The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) carried out a series of raids on May 20 across London to crack down on domestic, homophobic, transphobic, race and other forms of hate crimes. The raids were a part of the force’s Operation Athena.

A spokesperson said that there had been more than 200 people arrested by the end of the business day. How many arrests were the result of homophobic hate crimes remains unknown.

Operation Athena coincided with the May 20 International Day Against Homophobia, which took place May 17.

The MPS will be proactively targeting dangerous and prolific offenders across the 32 boroughs in London, as well as carrying out high visibility patrols, and working with neighborhood teams to encourage victims to come forward and report to us directly, or through a third party.

Hate and faith crimes include racist, homophobic and disability motivated crime, as well as crimes against adults at risk or older people by members of their own family or caregivers.

The operation is in its ninth year. Police say the campaign helps to send a clear message: violence, whatever the form, is unacceptable.

“We now have public protection groups in every London borough, dedicated to proactively investigating a wide range of domestic violence, hate and sexual crimes perpetrated by violent and dangerous offenders,” he said. “We remain concerned that such crimes remain unreported, which we understand can be for a number of different reasons. I want to personally appeal to victims to report these hurtful, sensitive and insidious crimes directly to police or through a third party or non-police reporting site.”

The MPS has 215 LGBT liaison officers working across all of London’s 32 boroughs. Their duties include advising, guiding and supporting police officers and staff in their everyday dealings with LGBT people who live, work and visit the city.

Anti-gay protests illegal?

Police stand guard over an anti-LGBT counter-protest of Baltic Gay Pride. Photo Credit: UK Gay News

Police stand guard over an anti-LGBT counter-protest of Baltic Gay Pride. Photo Credit: UK Gay News

RIGA, Latvia — Police say an anti-gay rally and march staged to coincide with an LGBT Pride festival on May 17 could have been illegal.

Latvian State Police said they have launched an “administrative investigation” into the counter-march, which they indicated had been organized by religious groups and nationalists.

“An administrative investigation can take up to four months and during this time the police will analyze all the evidence gathered relating to the case in order to decide which persons and under which article should be administratively charged,” Latvian State Police press spokesman Aigars Bïrzi told the LETA news agency.

A police officer had hinted at the possible legal violations at the Pride festival. He said the opposition demonstration had been “unsanctioned and without a proper authorisation from the relevant authorities.”

According to the intelligence available to the police, the counter-demonstration was organised by supporters of the religious sect New Generation Church led by Russian émigré Alexei Ledyaev, LETA reported.

Under Latvian law, up to four months is allowed for an administrative investigation. If after that time there is insufficient evidence admissible in court against an individual or individuals, the case is closed.

As reported by UK Gay News and in Q-Notes’ last issue, the Baltic Gay Pride festival had overcome several obstacles before getting approval to hold their event from city officials.

Domestic abuse campaign launched
BIRMINGHAM, U.K. — Pink Shield, a local LGBT advocacy and resource organization, launched posters for its “Unzip the Silence” campaign at Birmingham Pride on May 24.

The groundbreaking campaign aims to encourage people to seek help, whether they are victims or perpetrators.

“A quarter of lesbian and gay people expect to be treated less well by a police officer than other victims of crime,” said Angela Gilraine, chairperson of Pink Shield. “We have made tremendous steps forward in working with West Midlands Police to understand why people feel this way and what needs to be done to change it. People who are vulnerable to domestic abuse from partners or from homophobic family members are often confused about their situation.”

She added, “They may see their experience as being unique to their situation and do not understand that violence and abuse is just as unacceptable in same-sex relationships as it is anywhere else in our society.”

Jean McEntire, a member of West Midlands Police Authority, pointed out that the Authority takes very seriously the relationship between the police and the gay community.

“A recent survey indicated that a police force’s reputation, not just in tackling homophobic hate crime but also as a gay-friendly employer has a positive impact on whether gay or lesbian people would report homophobic hate incidents to the police,” she said. “I believe that the force’s 2009 award of 28th place in Stonewall’s top 100 employers demonstrates that people can have faith in West Midlands Police Force’s and Authority’s positive attitudes to diversity.”

The campaign is also sponsored by The British Transport Police, and is supported by Birmingham City Council and Eighty3 Creative.

— News briefs originally published by UK Gay News at www.ukgaynews.org.uk. Reprinted with permission.