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Rugby Star Gareth Thomas Victim of Homophobic Hate Crime in Wales

By Hugo Greenhalgh

LONDON, Nov 18 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A former British international rugby star said on Sunday he had chosen to ask for an apology rather than criminal charges after being attacked for being gay in a bid to send out a "positive message".

Gareth Thomas, former Wales rugby captain, posted a video on social media, sporting cuts and bruises to his face, in which he said he had been attacked on Friday in Cardiff, his home town.

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Thomas, who came out as gay in 2009 and retired in 2011, said he was attacked for his sexuality but he decided to opt for "restorative justice" with a 16-year-old boy involved, which meant he could address his attacker rather than press charges.

Thomas, 44, said he wanted his social media post to spread a "positive message" which comes as figures show hate crimes against the LGBTQ+ community are on the rise in Britain.

Read More: The UK Will Finally Ban So-Called 'Gay Conversion' Therapy

"Last night I was a victim in my home city of a hate crime for my sexuality," Thomas said in the video.

"I want to say thank you to the police, who were involved and allowed me to do restorative justice to the people that did this because I thought they could learn more that way."

"And also to the people of Cardiff who supported me and helped me because there's a lot of people out there who want to hurt us. But, unfortunately for them, there's a lot more who want to help us heal. So this, I hope, will be a positive message."

A 16-year-old youth, who cannot be named, has since apologised, according to local police.

Since coming out as gay, Thomas has campaigned on gay rights issues.

Government data shows that reports of hate crimes against people on the basis of their sexuality jumped 27% last year, with almost 12,000 incidents lodged with the police.

The British government in October announced plans to enhance training for police handling hate crime, which includes offences motivated by hostility on the grounds of race, religion, disability, sexual orientation and trans identity.

(Reporting by Hugo Greenhalgh @hugo_greenhalgh, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters that covers humanitarian issues, conflicts, land and property rights, modern slavery and human trafficking, LGBTQ+ rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org to see more stories)