Hate crime against gay and transgender people more than doubled across the North East in just five years, The Northern Echo can reveal.

June marks international Pride month, established decades ago by activists keen to shine a light on the intolerance and abuse faced by LGBT+ communities.

But far from being consigned to history, some issues faced then remain a challenge, with people across our region still persecuted over their sexuality or gender identity.

Amid a shocking rise in hate crime, the Echo heard reports of individuals being spat on in the street, abused on public transport and assaulted.

Overall, hate crimes across the North East have increased by 41 per cent since 2016-17, according to Echo analysis of Government statistics.

Read more: Abused, assaulted and driven out of her home - because she's transgender

But hate crimes linked to sexual orientation or transgenderism soared by a staggering 108 per cent in that period - rising from 458 then to 951 offences in 2020-21.

The Northern Echo:

More than 3,500 LGBT+ hate crimes were recorded in that five years – and experts say the true scale of the problem is much greater, as many victims will never report their experiences.

Darlington’s MP, Peter Gibson, said more must be done to tackle prejudice after the Echo found an average of two LGBT+ hate crimes a day were reported in the region during 2020-21 – the most recent data available.

He said: “Hate still exists in our society and more must be done to not only stop it, but to educate people about differences, which in turn will eradicate intolerance.”

Over five years, Northumbria Police recorded around 2,200 LGBT+ hate crimes, Durham Constabulary received more than 700 reports and Cleveland Police handled over 580.

Figures for North Yorkshire Police show nearly 500 offences were recorded during that time, rising from 39 in 2016-17 to 148.

The Northern Echo: Darlington MP Peter Gibson

Darlington's MP Peter Gibson

Around 15 per cent of reports in the North East were linked to victims targeted over being transgender, while the remainder experienced homophobic hate.

Transgender hate crimes rose by 93 per cent in that period, while those targeting sexual orientation more than doubled.

Read more: What did the region's forces say about increased LGBT+ hate crime?

Improved recording and increased reporting of hate crime has contributed to the recent rise, but police and campaigners say the problem remains underreported.

Andi Cull, CEO of North East LGBT+ organisation Arcus, said there had been a noticeable spike in homophobic and transphobic sentiment being expressed openly in recent years.

He said: “Hate crime is disgusting and has no place in modern society.

“It has a massive impact and there are a lot more incidents happening than anyone will ever know about – if the true figures were recorded, it would be staggering.”

National LGBT+ charity Stonewall called on “the silent majority” of Britons to actively challenge homophobic, biphobic and transphobic rhetoric.

Associate director Sasha Misra said people deserved to live their lives free from fear, adding: “Hate does not occur in a vacuum, and we know it’s fuelled by a small but vocal minority emboldened by hateful rhetoric and misleading media narratives.”

The region’s police forces said they worked closely with LGBT+ communities to tackle hate crime and increase confidence in the police.

Spokespeople told the Echo that the ability to report hate crime to third parties – such as charities or other organisations – meant more people felt comfortable coming forward.

But a spokesman for Durham Constabulary said a large proportion of hate crimes still go unreported, adding and said police wanted to close the gap.

To report a suspected hate crime, call police on non-emergency number 101, or 999 in an emergency.