Sunday, March 22, 2009

The killing of Michael Causer

He and every other victim of homophobic hate crime deserve better than to be ignored in favour of more "newsworthy" stories.

An innocent teenager was brutally battered in his sleep. A group of lads stormed into his room and proceeded to kick and punch him, used a cigarette lighter in an attempt to burn him and threatened to rip his body piercings out with a knife. They hit him with a copy of a hardback book so hard that the book itself split. They dumped him in the street and left him with multiple injuries, a broken skull and extensive head haemorrhaging. This was the brutal death of 18-year-old trainee hairdresser Michael Causer of Liverpool.

You'd have thought that such a true tale of ferocity and inhumanity would get Paul Dacre to dispatch a couple of his Daily Mail reporters to Merseyside with a front page story about Labour's Britain losing its moral bearings. You'd expect the Sun to start one of their moral crusades on the back of it, with a column by Fergus Shanahan arguing that the perpetrator should never have been born. The Express would bang on the drums that it's all Gordon Brown's fault that the nation's going to the pits.

Tony Parsons in the Mirror would tell you that this is yet more evidence that the death penalty is needed and it's needed now. Polly Toynbee in the Guardian too. She'd write that it's such awful news, but if it's any consolation, in the years since 1997, crime against people in their sleep it's gone down by 2,3% and that's according to the latest figures from Crime Survey UK.

Yet, aside from three pieces on BBC Merseyside online and some from the local press, the Independent was the only national paper that showed some interest.

Michael's murder happened in July 2008 and its ensuing trial ended last month. I only just found out. Tomorrow, the only man pleading guilty will be sentenced at Liverpool Crown Court. But when I started reading about it online I was blown away by the disproportion between the brutality of the killing and the lack of reporting from the press.

Perhaps it's because Michael Causer was openly gay and right from the start the police treated the case as a homophobic hate crime, citing overwhelming evidence and witness statements.

Or maybe it's because, at the time of Michael's death, editors didn't have time to express outrage as they were too busy dealing with the national emergencies of Sonia from EastEnders piling on the pounds or Amy Whinehouse popping out for a McDonald's.

But when you think of the national coverage that was (rightly) devoted to the racially-motivated murder of Anthony Walker in 2005, or the recent campaigns spearheaded by the many young people stabbed to death in London, a question crosses your mind.

In the words of Simon Edge from Gay Times (hat-tip Peter Tatchell): "will any non-homophobic news editor explain why Causer’s murder mattered less than that of every other teenager killed last summer?"
Last year, in London alone, 1,062 homophobic hate incidents were reported. The police estimate that 8 out of 10 homophobic crimes go unreported.

1 comment:

claude said...


James O'Connor, 20, who admitted murder, was sentenced to serve "life". In reality, all the judge ordered was a minimum of 11½ years before he can be considered for parole after pleading guilty to murder.

Co-defendant Michael Binsteed, 19, who was accused of perverting the cause of justice, was sentenced to 34 weeks in custody, suspended for two years.

He was ordered to carry out 200 hours of community service in 12 months.

Speaking outside court, Michael’s parents, Marie and Michael Causer, said: “This is another black day for Michael. It’s just pathetic.”