HATE crime reports against LGBT people have almost tripled in four years, figures show.

Reports jumped from just 19 in 2013/14 to 55 in 2017/18. Across the region, reports more than doubled, according to statistics obtained by the BBC under freedom of information rules.

Phoenix Stewart, of Swindon and Wiltshire Pride, said: "It's really difficult to see a story like this being published in 2019.

“Everyone should be able to walk down the street and hold the hand of the person they love without getting abuse. Everyone should be able to exist without the need of having to hide it through fear - we are all equal.”

He stressed the importance of reporting any incidents to police: “As difficult as it can feel to report a hate crime, it's extremely important that the police know about it. If they aren't aware of the incidents they can't do anything about it.”

Tonight, BBC's Inside Out programme will feature the story of one west of England mum who’s gay son was sent death threats.

Madeleine, who spoke on condition her surname was not featured, said her husband had been left covered in shattered glass when a brick was thrown through the window of their home.

She told TV cameras: “We had a letter a couple of days later saying whoever it is going to kill all of us and the dogs.

“Then we had the most recent letter which was a homophobic death threat.

“It was horrible. Really. really horrible."

LGBT hate crime is notoriously underreported, with charity Stonewall estimating that four in five crimes are not logged with the police.

But Johanna Jenkins, a support worker at LGBT Bristol, told the BBC numbers were on the up: “These days I have a lot more referrals. Whether this is because people are reporting more or if there’s more I really don’t know.

“All I do know is that the cases that I’m working on at the moment are far more aggressive than the ones that I had two years ago which is very sad."

In February, Wiltshire Police issued a witness appeal after a pair of thugs attacked a 24-year-old man in the early hours in Swindon town centre. The yobs had chased their victim and his friend after making homophobic comments.

Last year, Wiltshire Police’s force lead on hate crime, Supt David Minty, said public education was key to tackling the scourge: "For those affected, hate crime is a hugely distressing experience and is completely unacceptable.”

Inside Out is on BBC1 West tonight at 7.30pm.