Wick man speaks out against 'homophobic' police
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A WICK man believes that local police are dismissive of victims of homophobia and have "doctored statistics" to appear more proactive on the issue.
Keith Banks (57) claims that police in Caithness are discriminatory towards LGBTI people and feels his complaints to Police Scotland have been unfairly dismissed.
"I applied for an FOI [freedom of information] to establish the facts as to whether or not the police are reporting the bulk of hate crimes committed in this area against people who identify as LGBTI," he said.
Mr Banks thinks that local police officers "do not take hate crimes seriously" and, based on his own experiences of reporting homophobic abuse he says he has suffered, feels that the police have been dismissive towards him.
He said that he spoke to an officer at Wick police station on the phone in February 2013 to report a case of verbal abuse he suffered on a street in the town and felt "shocked" by the response he received.
"The officer said to me 'complaints like yours have no credibility, clog up the system and stop us dealing with real crime'.
"I thought this was a ridiculous way to deal with the matter so I reported the comment to a Chief Inspector Coates at professional standards in Inverness. He told me leave it with him but I heard nothing back about it from him or anyone in professional standards."
Mr Banks thinks that the comment from Wick police station "suggests that the officer was homophobic himself" and "could be deemed serious misconduct".
He said: "The police up here make LGBTI persons feel as if they are the problem when they report homophobia.
"Indeed, I believe several [police officers] have actually committed acts of homophobia against those who they know are gay, and that allegation has an evidential basis. Clearly this situation is scandalous and unacceptable and those officers need to be weeded out now."
Fearing that he was not the only person identifying as LGBTI to be dismissed in the manner he claims happened, Mr Banks tried to access statistics on homophobic hate crimes reported to the procurator fiscal in Wick for 2017 and 2018. However, he felt the figures he received did not reflect "the true picture" and the "stats were rigged to dupe the public into believing they [the police] deal with real cases of hate crime when in reality they don't bother".
Mr Banks had asked Police Scotland for the number of homophobic hate crimes reported against police officers to be revealed so he could get a "clearer picture of what was happening" but says he was refused the information.
"The only convictions for homophobia that I've noticed in the local press have been committed against the police and no other persons.
"Police Scotland refused to say how many such crimes [against police] had been reported. They argued that disclosing the number would lead to individuals being identified and that this would breach the data protection principles."
Mr Banks complained to the Scottish Information Commissioner – the independent public official responsible for promoting and enforcing Scotland's Freedom of Information law – who upheld his complaint that Police Scotland was not being transparent on the matter and must reveal the full table of statistics.
In a recent letter to Mr Banks the commissioner stated: "Police Scotland wrongly withheld information under section 38(1)(b) on the basis that it was personal data, thereby failing to comply with section 1(1).
"The commissioner therefore requires Police Scotland to provide the applicant with the information withheld by November 25, 2019."
Mr Banks thinks that the information will show that "the service provided to LGBTI people in Caithness is very poor" and "reveal that unacceptable reality".
He said: "The police in Caithness should be ashamed of the way they treat LGBTI people. Their attitude sends out a clear message: don't bother us because we are not interested in homophobia unless we believe we are the victims."
A Police Scotland spokesperson said: "We are aware of the complaints raised by Mr Banks and we are in the process of dealing with these. Therefore, making any further comment would be inappropriate at this time."