By Rosa Furneaux
LONDON, Nov 29 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The actions of a 17-year-old boy in an attack on two lesbians in London were motivated by hostility towards their sexuality, a judge ruled on Friday.
"These two women were being pestered, harassed and intimidated because of who they were," district judge Susan Williams told the court.
Williams sentenced the boy to a four-month youth rehabilitation order with a 20-hour reparation requirement, similar to community service, and a two-week curfew.
On Thursday, the boy, along with two other teenagers, pleaded guilty at Highbury Magistrates' Court to public order offences in relation to the attack that took place on a London bus in May.
Two other youths aged 15 and 16 pleaded guilty to committing an aggravated hate crime and handling stolen goods.
But Friday's special hearing was convened after the 17-year-old denied his actions were motivated by homophobia. He is accused of throwing coins at the women and making "kissing gestures", which he denied.
The victims said the group had tried to force them to kiss each other and made references to sex acts. An ensuing fight left both women with facial wounds after they were punched several times.
"It was scary and, frankly, I deal with a lot of harassment in London," Christine Hannigan told Highbury Corner Youth Court on Friday. "They were being very aggressive verbally and then they made it physical."
"I felt intimated and humiliated," her partner Melania Geymonat told the court through an interpreter. "The impression I got was, as a group they were all sort of egging each other on."
Photos of the women with bloody faces went viral and sparked widespread condemnation on social media.
The number of hate crimes recorded by British police against lesbian, gay and bisexual people rose 25% to 14,491 in the year to March 2019, according to the most recent official data.
The other two teenagers will be sentenced in December.
(Reporting by Rosa Furneaux @rosafurneaux; Editing by Hugo Greenhalgh and Ros Russell. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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