Police have arrested a 13-year-old boy in connection with a wave of homophobic violence in a small Welsh town, but details are still extremely limited.
Some of the incidents were aimed at members of a local club for LGBTQ+ youth in the small town of Caernarfon. The club, which does not have a name, is run by a youth-focused nonprofit named GISDA (an acronym for a longer name in Welsh). In July, one member was assaulted at a bus stop following a meeting, and other members reported verbal harassment. The club was temporarily placed on hold following the violence.
Police haven’t said whether the boy, whose name has not been released, is responsible for all of the attacks, which have been happening over the last few months. There may be other members of the community responsible for the wave of attacks and harassment. At least one person was hospitalized with unspecified injuries.
Located in a rural area and surrounded by farmland, Caenarfon offers one of the only public hangouts for queer young people in North Wales. Though it started small, with just one member, by now 150 people have taken advantage of the club since it started in 2017. On average, 20 people attend meetings.
"What we wanted to do was to create an inclusive environment for young people from the [LGBTQ+] community,” co-founder Aled Griffiths told the BBC. “Somewhere they could come and have the freedom to chat, make new friends and express themselves whichever way they wanted.”
Police Sergeant Non Edwards told members, “We'll continue to work to deal with problems, but we need people to work with us in partnership.”
But that urging to work with police may be hard to take seriously. A new report indicates that while reports of hate crimes are rising, fewer people are being prosecuted for them. Incidents of homophobic abuse in the U.K. went from 5,807 five years ago to 13,530 last year, but prosecutions declined from 1,157 to 1,058. Yorkshire, in central England, has seen a particularly sharp rise in reported incidents.
The U.K.’s Home Office has plans to recruit 20,000 new officers. They’ll also invest £85 million — about $105 million in the U.S. — in additional resources for prosecution. But that money isn’t earmarked for hate crimes and could in fact be used against queer people, who can be disproportionately targeted by police.
For their part, GISDA is dedicated to continuing to offer services and support to young people in need. Its organizers work by day in child and adolescent mental health services for the National Health Service and volunteer their time at night. Safe spaces like these are particularly urgent in the U.K. Studies indicate that 24 percent of homeless youth in the U.K. are queer, while 44 percent of young queer people report having suicidal thoughts.
If you’re in the area and want to know more, the group meets every other Monday at the GISDA building on the Maes in Caernarfon at 6 p.m. local time. They can be reached at [email protected]
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