One in four gay men in Capital is victim of attack

ONE in four gay men has been the victim of physical attack in Edinburgh during the last five years because of their sexuality, according to a new report published today.

The study also found that 15 per cent of gay men surveyed had been assaulted during the last year, but fewer than one in five reported the incidents to police.

The report, commissioned by Lothian and Borders Police, was produced by two health psychology professors from Queen Margaret University who questioned more than 200 members of the lesbian, gay and transgender community – 150 of them men – in the Capital.

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Gay rights campaigners said they were "not surprised" by the figures and called on victims to report incidents to police.

The study, carried out last April, also showed seven per cent of lesbians interviewed had been the victim of a physical or sexual assault during the last 12 months. Women were more likely to make a police report than men, with 68 per cent contacting the force.

Calum Irving, director of Stonewall Scotland, said: "Sadly, we're not surprised at these figures. Studies generally show that a quarter of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people have experienced physical violence."

Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill, is backing a Member's Bill brought by Green MSP Patrick Harvie to put attacks motivated by malice or ill-will towards victims based on their sexual orientation, on the same legal footing as racist attacks and religiously-aggravated assaults.

The study found that 57 per cent of those surveyed considered north Edinburgh and the city centre to be the "most unsafe" for gay people. Leith attracted 21 per cent, with the Cowgate at 12 per cent. These are the areas where the majority of gay and gay-friendly venues are located. Some 29 per cent said Wester Hailes and Sighthill were "unsafe" but no areas in south Edinburgh were highlighted.

However, the number of attacks had fallen from a similar report from 1998.

Sergeant Pauline Nairn, of the force's diversity unit, said: "Although there has been a drop in attacks in the last decade there are still too many. I think it's a minority of people in Edinburgh who are responsible and we are working to instil the fact that we take it very seriously and won't tolerate it."

Girl spat in my face

A TRANSSEXUAL living in the Capital today described how she was verbally abused and spat on by a 16-year-old girl in the street.

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Johanna Cooke was targeted as she walked back from a post office in Colinton Mains Drive on August 24 last year.

Kirsty Lee Davidson, who lives in the street, pleaded guilty to assault at Edinburgh Sheriff Court, and will be sentenced on February 4.

Ms Cooke said: "The girl began screaming and shouting abuse at me, then trying to photograph me on her mobile.

"She continued to shout obscenities. Then she spat in my face."

Police used a DNA testing kit to take a sample of the spittle from Ms Cooke's T-shirt and used it as evidence.

Ms Cooke, 34, who volunteers at the LGBT Centre, said: "I moved to Edinburgh because I though it would be a tolerant place, as the city is very cosmopolitan. I still believe it is."