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Sexual orientation and transgender identity hate crime

This advice applies to Scotland

This information applies to Scotland only.

Sexual orientation and transgender identity are terms that are used to refer to people's sexuality. Prejudice against someone's sexuality is often directed at people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) but could also be directed at someone who is heterosexual (attracted to the opposite sex).

Read this page to find out more about homophobic, biphobic or transphobic incidents and what you can do about it.

Sexual orientation and transgender identity hate crime

If someone has been violent or hostile towards you because of your sexual orientation when you are not heterosexual, this is known as a homophobic or biphobic hate incident or hate crime.

Hostile or violent incidents because of your transgender identity are also hate crimes known as transphobic hate incidents.

Hate incidents can happen anywhere. Sometimes you may know the person who attacked you, but hate incidents are also carried out by strangers.

What is a homophobic, biphobic or transphobic hate incident

Something is a homophobic, biphobic or transphobic hate incident if the victim or anyone else thinks it was carried out because of hostility or prejudice against your sexual orientation or transgender identity.

This means that if you believe something is a hate incident, it should be recorded as this by the person you are reporting it to.

Who can be the victim of a homophobic, biphobic or transphobic hate incident

Anyone can be the victim of a homophobic, biphobic or transphobic hate incident.

You can be the victim if someone believes you’re an LGBT person even though you’re not. You can also be the victim of an attack because of your association with members of the LGBT communities.

What type of incidents can be a homophobic, biphobic or transphobic hate incident

Homophobic and transphobic hate incidents can take many forms including:

  • verbal and physical abuse
  • physical violence
  • teasing
  • bullying
  • threatening behaviour
  • online abuse
  • damage to property.

It can be a one-off incident or part of an ongoing campaign of harassment or intimidation.

It could be carried out by a carer, a neighbour, a teacher or someone you consider a friend and you may find this very difficult to deal with because the person may say they were just joking.

What crime is committed

There are no specific homophobic, biphobic or transphobic hate crimes. Any criminal offence can be a hate crime if the offender targeted you because of their prejudice or hostility to LGBT people.

When someone is charged with a homophobic, biphobic or transphobic offence a court can impose a tougher sentence on the offender because it has been recorded as hate crime. Depending on what happened there is a number of laws that can be used to justify the harsher sentence. A court will need evidence that the offender did show prejudice, malice and ill will, for example, because of what was said.

The incident you’ve suffered may still be a crime even if it’s difficult to show it was carried out because of hostility based on prejudice about your sexual orientation or transgender identity or presumed identity. Only the Procurator Fiscal can decide to prosecute an alleged offender for an offence.

What you can do about a homophobic, biphobic or transphobic hate incident or crime

If you’ve experienced a homophobic, biphobic or transphobic hate incident or crime you can report it to the police. You can also report a hate incident or crime even if it wasn’t directed at you. For example, you could be a friend, neighbour, family member, support worker or simply a passer-by.

If you’re being repeatedly harassed by the same person or group of people, it’s best to report all the hate incidents you experience to help the police get the full picture. You can get in touch with your local police from the Police Scotland website at www.scotland.police.

When reporting the incident or crime you should say you think it was motivated by hostility or prejudice based on sexual orientation or transgender identity.

Incidents at work

If you’ve experienced acts of hostility or harassment because of sexual orientation or transgender identity at work, you may have a discrimination claim under the Equality Act 2010.

  • More about discrimination at work

Incidents at or near home

Many homophobic, biphobic or transphobic hate incidents happen near the victim’s home. For example, you may be repeatedly harassed or intimidated by neighbours or local youths. People may be throwing things like rubbish in your garden or damaging your property. Sometimes, disputes with neighbours escalate into verbal or physical abuse.

You can report these incidents to the police. There are also other things you can do to stop these acts.

You can get your local authority or landlord to take action under their anti-social behaviour powers. You can also take civil court action to get compensation and an order to stop the perpetrator continuing with the behaviour under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.

Incidents at or near school

When bullying is motivated by hostility or prejudice based on sexual orientation, it can be a hate incident. Bullying in itself is not a criminal offence. If it is serious enough, it could also be a hate crime. Bullying includes cyber bullying.

If you’ve experienced homophobic, biphobic or transphobic bullying, the school should deal with it under their behaviour policy. They should also co-operate with the police and social work department if they become involved.

If the school fails to deal with the bullying, you may have a discrimination claim under the Equality Act 2010. You may also be able to challenge the schools failure to act under their public sector equality duty.

Next steps

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