09/06/2010

Rainbow Project Gets Advocacy Scheme

A community-led project aimed at better protection for NI's gay community has been revealed today.

Police in South and East Belfast, in partnership with The Rainbow Project, the NI Housing Executive, Community Safety Partnership and Belfast City Council Good Relations Unit have launched an Advocacy Scheme for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Community.

It is said to be building on the success of the two previously launched Advocacy Schemes – the Bi-lingual Advocates working with the Chinese and Polish communities and the Hate Crime Advocate.

The new project involves the appointment of an Advocate to work closely with the LGBT community in areas such as Hate Crime, domestic abuse, homelessness and other issues of concern.

The main objectives are to encourage reporting, reduce crime, enhance crime investigations, improve clearance rates for hate crimes, provide support for victims including housing support and reduce anti-social behaviour towards members of the LGBT community.

The advocate will be based within the offices of the Rainbow Project in Belfast.

A spokesman said: "Police are aware that members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities do not always fully engage with them when it comes to reporting crime, anti-social behaviour or giving information.

"The Advocacy scheme is aimed at building trust and confidence within these communities, as well as providing practical support and assistance when coming in contact with their local police and statutory agencies," he said in a statement.

Officers in South and East Belfast are confident that the LGBT Advocate will become an invaluable tool in addressing the underreporting of crime by the LGBT community as well as in instilling a sense of equality.

It is also hoped that in time, members of the LGBT community will consider the Police Service as a career option and thus help the Police Service become even more representative of the entire community.

Speaking at today's launch, B District Deputy Commander, Superintendent Chris Noble said that building trust and promoting diversity were key priorities in today's policing environment.

"Attacks on people with a different sexual orientation or gender identity highlight the necessity to ensure that as a society we stamp out hate crime once and for all.

"We are working tirelessly with our partners to do this. Our 'Policing a Shared Future Strategy' outlines the need to ensure that everything we do is underpinned by fairness and respect towards all members of our community.

"This includes ensuring equality for all, improving relations between different groups in our society by promoting diversity and building confidence in the police.

"I believe that the appointment of the LGBT Advocate will be a tremendous step in that direction," he said.

Last year, the Rainbow Project carried out research into the levels of homophobic hate crime in Northern Ireland and found that of the 1,143 people who were surveyed, one fifth had been the victim of a hate crime in the previous three years.

It also showed that under-reporting was a serious issue with 64% of these incidents never being reported to the PSNI.

Director of The Rainbow Project John O'Doherty said: "The Rainbow Project is very excited about this new project.

"Over the last number of years The Rainbow Project has been working in partnership with the PSNI and other agencies to tackle homophobic and transphobic hate crime.

"We have developed a number of key partnership protocols to make it easier for people to report and therefore increase the reporting of hate crime. The appointment of an LGBT Advocate is an exciting addition to this ongoing work."

(BMcC/GK)

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