Judge Desmond Marrinan.
Homophobic crimes across County Derry's three policing districts have risen sharply in the past twelve months, recent PSNI data has shown.
A 55% rise in homophobic hate crimes was recorded across Mid Ulster, Derry and Strabane and Causeway Coast and Glens, while the districts experienced a 44% rise in homophobic hate incidents.
The PSNI defines a hate crime as a criminal offence perceived, by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice towards someone based on a personal characteristic.
Not all hate motivated incidents result in the recording of a crime, as what occurred during the incident may not be at the level of severity which would result in a crime being recorded.
Mid Ulster recorded the highest rise in homophobic incidents (67%) and homophobic crimes (81%) of all Derry's districts. Their 81% rise in homophobic crimes was also the highest in NI.
Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council saw homophobic incidents rise by 46%, while the district's rise in homophobic crimes rose by 58%.
Derry City and Strabane's increase was the lowest of the three districts, with a 33% rise in homophobic incidents and a 41% rise in homophobic crimes.
An increased amount of racist hate incidents and crimes were recorded in Derry City and Strabane, but declines in Mid Ulster and Causeway Coast and Glens mean the overall figure for the county is down.
Racist incidents rose by 21% in the urban district, while crimes rose by 41%. Causeway Coast and Glens experienced a 51% decline in racist incidents and a 43% decline in racist crimes.
Mid Ulster showed a slight 8% decrease in racist incidents and a 16% decline in the number of racist crimes.
All districts recorded a decrease in sectarian incidents and crimes, with the data showing a 35% decline in incidents and a 41% decline in crimes across the three areas.
Causeway Coast and Glens saw the figures drop to the greatest extent, with a 47% decrease in sectarian incidents and a 52% decrease in sectarian crimes over the last 12 months.
Mid Ulster saw a 40% decrease in incidents and 38% decrease in crimes, while Derry and Strabane recorded 23% less incidents and 36% sectarian crimes.
Mid Ulster MLA, and Sinn Féin Equality Spokesperson, Emma Sheerin, said the results made depressing reading.
“It's heartening to see a decrease in racist and sectarian incidents, although the objective here should be zero incidents of any motivation,” she said.
“Discrimination is never justified, it is never excusable, it is never okay and the rise in homophobic motivated hate crimes across our district is hugely disheartening.
“When I see figures like this, I think not only of the immediate impact on those affected, but also of the implications this will have on any young person who witnesses this and thinks that being targeted for your sexuality is in some way normal or to be expected.
'There is a responsibility on all of us to call out bullying whenever we witness it, whatever the reason for it.”
Meanwhile, Justice Minister Naomi Long has welcomed the completion of an independent review into Northern Ireland's hate crime legislation.
The review, carried out by Judge Desmond Marrinan, contains 34 recommendations focused on ensuring existing hate crime legislation represents the most effective approach.
“The recommendations in his Final Report are complex and wide–ranging and people may hold contrasting views on some of them,” said Naomi Long.
“It is important that we build on the opportunity this provides for us to move towards strengthening and updating hate crime legislation in Northern Ireland.
“Hate crime in any form is unacceptable and addressing it is one of my priorities. Whether offline or online, targeting a person because of who they are or what they believe is wrong.”
PSNI data on hate crime over the last twelve months can be accessed here.
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