PSNI records 264 incidents with homophobic motive in one year

Photo issued by the Northern Ireland Assembly of Malachai O'Hara, who has said he was verbally abused on his way to work in the city on Wednesday morning. Photo: The Northern Ireland Assembly/PA Wire
Photo issued by the Northern Ireland Assembly of Malachai O'Hara, who has said he was verbally abused on his way to work in the city on Wednesday morning. Photo: The Northern Ireland Assembly/PA Wire

Hundreds of homophobic incidents were recorded in Northern Ireland in one year, police statistics show.

Hate crime laws should be updated to combat “everyday harassment”, the Green Party said, as figures showed the PSNI recorded 264 incidents with a homophobic motivation in the year to June 30.

Of those incidents, 152 crimes were committed, including violence, theft and criminal damage.

North Belfast representative Malachai O’Hara said he was verbally abused on his way to work in the city on Wednesday morning.

He said: “Too many LGBTQ people shrug off casual homophobia and transphobia because they don’t deem it important enough or they are not convinced anything will be done.

“It’s hugely important that every incident and crime is reported. It allows police and politicians to understand the true picture of everyday harassment experienced by LGBTQ people.

“Whether we have a returned Assembly or not in the near future, it is time to review and update our hate crime legislation to make sure it is fit for purpose.”

Mr O’Hara said he was told he had dropped his “gay card” by a passer-by in a car.

When he challenged the young man he was threatened with assault.

He added: “I have been an out LGBTQ activist for over a decade. I managed health services at Ireland’s largest LGBTQ charity and I know the damage that casual and unchallenged homophobia causes.

“I was not letting this go.”

He has reported the threat to the LGBTQ Advocate, based at the Rainbow Project, which supports victims of homophobic or transphobic crime.

Mr O’Hara is awaiting an appointment with police.