Homophobic hate crimes reported to police have almost trebled over the last five years, new figures show.
Statistics reported by the BBC show there were 6,655 cases of hate crime based on sexual orientation in 2014-2015.
This rose to 18,465 in 2019-20.
The figures were obtained by freedom of information requests from 45 police forces across the UK.
"Really just the tip of the iceberg"
Responding to claims the rise is due to increased confidence in reporting to police, Nancy Kelley, chief exec of Stonewall since June 2020, told the BBC: "We are definitely seeing a real increase in people reaching out for help across all of the LGBT organisations.
"So we are very concerned that this is a real rise in people who are being attacked because of who they are and who they love.
"We know that 80% of LGBT people don't report hate crimes. So this is really just the tip of the iceberg. One of the key steps to changing this is making it visible, and by standing up and saying that we shouldn't have to experience this kind of hate and abuse."
National Police Chiefs Council lead for LGBT issues, Deputy Chief Constable Julie Cooke, told Attitude: “Everybody has the right to live their lives without being harassed or attacked due to their sexuality or gender identity.
"We acknowledge the significant harm that hate crimes against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people can cause, and we are committed to doing everything we can to protecting victims and bringing perpetrators to justice. People do not choose to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans, it is just who they are. And like everyone else, they have the right to feel comfortable and confident to do so freely without fear or prejudice.”
“I would urge people who have been victims of these crimes to come forward as soon as possible. The quicker a crime is reported to the police, the quicker we can start our investigations. Where possible, we will always seek to prosecute any offenders.”
"A hate crime can include verbal abuse, intimidation, threats, harassment, assault and bullying"
According to the Crown Prosecution Service website, the term 'hate crime' "can be used to describe a range of criminal behaviour where the perpetrator is motivated by hostility or demonstrates hostility towards the victim's disability, race, religion, sexual orientation or transgender identity.
"These aspects of a person's identity are known as 'protected characteristics'. A hate crime can include verbal abuse, intimidation, threats, harassment, assault and bullying, as well as damage to property. The perpetrator can also be a friend, carer or acquaintance who exploits their relationship with the victim for financial gain or some other criminal purpose."
The news follows reports that a Jersey police officer was formally reprimanded after being caught on camera using a homophobic slur in July 2020.