Shaun Bailey is a member of the London Assembly and the Conservative candidate for Mayor of London.
In the past four years, there has been a disturbing rise in homophobic hate crime in London. As someone who has experienced racial hate both on the streets and online, I stand in total solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community, many of whom suffer horrible and unacceptable abuse.
The Government and the Law Commission are currently looking at reforming hate crime laws. As part of that, something must be done, and so I urge people to join me in calling for tougher sentences to protect the LGBTQ+ community. Political leaders at all levels of Government need to grasp the scale of this problem, which has increased by 51 per cent since 2016.
In the short term, I would like to see our Government make homophobic hate crime an aggravated crime in line with racial and religious hate crime. This would ensure harsher sentences and could be achieved as part of the sentencing reforms.
We cannot afford to ignore this issue as LGBTQ+ hate crime is growing at a faster rate than almost all other types of hate crime. In the past 12 months alone, 2,835 recorded incidences of homophobic hate crime were reported to the authorities in London. Yet research by Stonewall, a charity set up to represent and protect the LGBTQ+ community, suggests that 81 per cent of people who experience LGBTQ+ hate crime do not report it to the police.
I fear that what has been reported is only the tip of the iceberg. It is completely unacceptable that in a city that prides itself on being as open and tolerant as London, 13,974 homophobic hate crimes could have occurred over the last year – five times the reported figure.
Yet tougher sentencing alone will not protect the LGBTQ+ community. We must address the spread of the vile ideology driving this disgusting form of hate. We need to target the platforms that allow bigoted ideas to circulate. To do this, we must also hold social media platforms to account. We must demand that such ideas are not allowed to spread and to do so we must put pressure on the social media companies to remove abusive content and the users spreading it.
No single community should ever feel singled out, victimised, or punished, and we must not stand idly by as this form of abuse continues to increase. So please join me, sign my petition, and help put pressure on our Government to take the necessary steps to protect our brothers and sisters. United we can stand together in total solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community.
In our battle to retake City Hall, I have a crime plan will ensure that criminals on and offline are put under pressure, not victims. I will fight for London’s values of openness and acceptance.
Not a single Londoner should feel unsafe for being themselves.
Join Shaun in calling for tougher sentences to protect the LGBTQ+ community by singing his petition.