A VICTIM of a homophobic attack has spoken out about his ordeal, to urge others who are suffering from hate crime to report it to the police.

The 46-year-old, who does not want to be named, says he has received 'absolutely brilliant' support from Richmond police since the attack.

The victim was set upon by a group of youths armed with large sticks as he walked on Ham Common on July 21. He was left bleeding heavily from a wound on the head and received treatment at West Middlesex Hospital.

"It was a very frightening experience, there were a lot of them. I still sometimes think that I should have had a go back, but there were too many. It was pretty awful," he recalled.

Police believe that there have been other homophobic incidents in the borough and are urging the victims to report the crimes to them. The victim said that members of the gay community can be reluctant to approach the police, but he did not hesitate to get in touch.

"They have been absolutely brilliant. It made me aware that the police and certainly the Met are much more sympathetic in 2004 than in 1984, so I had no qualms about approaching them," he said.

"They had a sympathetic approach. I was treated like I was a victim of crime, and it just happened to be homophobia. The amount of support has been amazing, from the policeman who picked me up at West Mid, to people just ringing me to ask if I was OK when I have been for interviews."

He added that he has written to the Met Commissioner, Sir John Stephens, 'because we can be very quick to condemn, but not quick enough to praise'.

"But their support and professionalism has just been to the highest standard," he added.

And he has a clear message to other victims of hate crime: "I would encourage everybody who has been in this situation to come forward and show people that they can trust the police because, without people coming forward, crimes like these are never going to be solved."

DI Caroline Barker said: "We know there have been other incidents and we need to know about them.

"We want people to feel comfortable about coming forward, as a force we have come a long way. We treat everyone according to their needs."

Borough commander Ch Supt Ian Edwards added: "We have dedicated officers who demonstrate compassion, but most importantly act professionally and are achieving results. We are here to deal with all victims of hate crime."

The community safety unit at Twickenham Police Station can be contacted on 020 8247 7204.