Rise in hate crimes against trans people could be fuelled by politicians, Home Office admits

A rise in hate crimes against transgender people may have been fuelled by politicians’ comments, the Home Office has admitted.

Transgender hate crimes rose by 11 per cent in the year to March 2023, to their highest rate since the figures were first recorded in 2012. Recorded crimes increased from 4,262 in 2022 to 4,732 this year, while religious hate crimes were also up by 9 per cent.

A Home Office briefing outlining the statistics, published on Thursday, highlighted for the first time the potential link between MPs’ remarks and the rise in recorded incidents. It said: “Transgender issues have been heavily discussed by politicians, the media and on social media over the last year, which may have led to an increase in these offences, or more awareness in the police in the identification and recording of these crimes.”

The impact of comments made by politicians was not included in the reasons given for transgender hate crimes the previous year, when incidents were instead attributed to heavy discussion on social media.

Describing the Home Office figures as “distressing”, Tory MP Elliot Colburn, who is the vice-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on hate crime, said it was time for the government to take the lead on the issue in a more respectful way in order to “end the toxicity”.

Former business secretary Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg said that politicians need to be able to talk about issues of national importance, and that the subject of trans rights needs to be discussed “frankly and politely” to avoid it leading to hate crimes.

The revelation comes after a Tory party conference at which there was a strong focus on the trans debate, and months after Rishi Sunak was accused of weaponising trans issues. And Labour has not escaped criticism on the issue, as a row continues within the party over its position on trans rights.

Mr Sunak was criticised for comments he made in his conference speech on Wednesday, in which he said: “We shouldn’t get bullied into believing that people can be any sex they want to be – they can’t. A man is a man and a woman is a woman. That’s just common sense.”

Six cabinet ministers also used their conference speeches to raise transgender issues. Home secretary Suella Braverman criticised “gender ideology”, describing it as one of the “highly controversial” ideas being “presented to workforces and the public as if they are motherhood and apple pie”.

Conservative London Assembly member Andrew Boff was ejected from Ms Braverman’s speech after he objected to her comments, saying: “There’s no such thing as gender ideology.”

Rishi Sunak used his conference speech to criticise a lack of ‘common sense’ in the public sector (EPA)
Rishi Sunak used his conference speech to criticise a lack of ‘common sense’ in the public sector (EPA)

Speaking to reporters after he was removed, Mr Boff said: “It is making our Conservative Party look transphobic and homophobic. Our party has a proud record of standing up for LGBT+ rights, and she is destroying it.”

Health secretary Steve Barclay, meanwhile, insisted that the Tories “know what a woman is” as he announced that trans women would be banned from women-only NHS hospital wards.

Britain’s first openly transgender MP, Conservative Jamie Wallis, told The Independent that Mr Barclay should solve problems “which actually exist”. He said there was “no evidence of even a single complaint about the presence of trans women in particular spaces”.

Sir Keir Starmer has faced backbench opposition within his own party after he said that “99.9 per cent of women” do not have a penis. He was criticised by Labour MP Rosie Duffield, who suggested that his comments had left many in the party “livid” and that there were concerns that his stance risked rolling back women’s rights.

Andrew Boff accused Suella Braverman of making the Tory party look ‘transphobic’ (PA)
Andrew Boff accused Suella Braverman of making the Tory party look ‘transphobic’ (PA)

Shadow women and equalities secretary Anneliese Dodds sparked debate within the party as she vowed to protect single-sex spaces and said that gender recognition without a medical diagnosis is not the “right way forward”.

The number of overall hate crimes recorded by police in England and Wales has fallen year on year for the first time in a decade.

A spokesperson for the Home Office said that the stats showed there had been an overall reduction in hate crimes recorded by the police, and that the numbers of crimes relating to sexual orientation, race and disability had all fallen.

“Whilst the increase in transgender hate crime may be due to a genuine rise, the biggest driver is likely to be general improvements in police recording,” they added.

A total of 145,214 offences were recorded in the year ending in March 2023, down 5 per cent from 153, 536 in the previous 12 months. The majority of hate crimes were racially motivated, accounting for two-thirds of offences.

Some 41 per cent involved violence, and 51 per cent were public order offences. And religious hate crimes increased, rising 9 per cent year-on-year.

Two in five religious hate crime offences were directed against Muslims, and around one in six were directed against Jews.

It comes as the percentage of violent offences is on the rise, with violent crimes having made up only 30 per cent of reports in 2014-15.

The recorded rise in transgender identity crimes comes after a nationwide survey found that British people are growing less accepting of transgender people.

The new statistics come a fortnight after a report published by the National Centre for Social Research found that Britain is now less tolerant of transgender issues.

Only 30 per cent agreed that a trans person should be permitted to change the sex on their birth certificate, compared to 53 per cent in 2019. In that year, 82 per cent described themselves as “not at all prejudiced” against trans people – a figure that has dropped sharply to 64 per cent this year.

Mr Colburn, who has previously urged his party to stop “demonising” trans people, told The Independent: “These statistics make for depressing reading. Hate crime, attacking someone for nothing else than who they are, is heinous. It’s sadly not surprising to see the increase.

“The government has itself identified in their data report that the harmful rhetoric around trans people has no doubt contributed to this rise. It’s time to lead from the front, end the toxicity, and find a more respectful way forward.”

Sir Jacob said: “Politicians must be able to discuss issues of national importance freely. The questions around trans rights and the balance required to protect women are important and need to be discussed frankly and politely.” Such a discussion would not lead to hate crimes, he added.

Becca Rosenthal, national hate crime lead at charity Victim Support, said the rise in transphobic hate crime was “extremely concerning”. “We know that transphobic hate crime is seriously underreported – and transgender victims who we support tell us that hostility towards the community is getting worse,” she added.

Robbie de Santos, from charity Stonewall, said that many political leaders “are filling the public domain with toxic language that dehumanises LGBTQ+ people and legitimises violence”, adding: “The UK government failed to implement any sort of strategy that responds to their own statistics and reports.”

And Green Party peer Natalie Bennett told The Independent that the trans debate had been dominated by an “absolutely disgraceful level of dog-whistle politics” instead of the “sober, careful, sensible, caring discussion we should have”.

She said: “If we are going to see, over the next 15 months, the government seeking to make the election a culture war, then I very much fear that there will be many people at risk from that – and certainly trans people will be among those who suffer in those circumstances.”

Danny Harry, star of TV dating show I Kissed a Boy, said a recent incident at King’s Cross station, in which he was followed and surrounded by men using offensive slurs against him, was not isolated.

“For so many people in my community, it is so much worse,” he said. “Many political leaders are fuelling the flames of homophobia in this country, and warping the facts to create a false narrative that puts a target on the backs of the most vulnerable.”