A group of teenage boys have admitted to harassing and attacking a lesbian couple during a late night bus ride in London.
The altercation took place on the upper deck of a double decker in the North London residential district of Camden. A group of teenage boys began harassing Christine Hannigan and Melania Geymonat and pelting them with coins after Hannigan claims they demanded the couple show them “how lesbians have sex.”
“We were clearly together in a romantic sense, we were being affectionate,” she told the Highbury Corner Youth Court during a recent hearing, as the BBC reports. “It is pretty intimidating being cornered and making homophobic comments.”
The three assailants — whose names have not been released to the media but are aged 15, 16, and 17 — pled guilty to “public order offenses.” Two reportedly laughed as CCTV footage was screened in the courtroom showing them physically assaulting the couple, who were badly bloodied following the scuffle.
The incident made news around the globe after Geymonat posted a photo on social media of her battered face.
According to the BBC, this week’s court proceedings will now determine whether an “aggravating factor of homophobia” should added to the 17-year-old member of the group’s ultimate sentence. Passed in 2003, the Criminal Justice Act requires courts to consider whether a crime was motivated by an individual’s sexual orientation.
Geymonat believes both the couple’s gender and sexual orientation were factors in the attack. “'The violence is not only because we are women which are dating each other,” she said. “It’s also because we are women.”
While the defense attorney for the teenage boys maintains the couple was not targeted because of their sexual orientation, District Judge Susan Williams indicated that she disagrees with that assessment. After viewing the CCTV footage, she claimed the attackers treated Geymonat and Hannigan as a “side show.”
“It is perfectly obvious the fact this is a same-sex couple is what attracted the attention of these boys in the first place and what piqued their interest,” she argued.
However, Williams said she isn’t sure if she “would describe it as a hate crime.”
According to a report published in The Guardian earlier this year, the number of hate crimes in England and Wales has doubled in the past five years.