‘It’s time to educate kids against prejudice’

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A transgender woman who was abused by two teenagers in a Dunstable pub is calling on parents to educate their children against prejudice.

Paula Collins, 57, was abused by the youngsters at the Gary Cooper pub on May 5 last year after they singled her out for being transgender.

On an earlier incident, one of the pair had shouted ‘you should be killed” at her in the street.

Last Tuesday, the pair – who cannot be named for legal reasons – were convicted of harassment at Luton Magistrates Court following a trial.

They will be sentenced on February 21 after pre-sentence reports have been prepared.

Paula said: “At such a young age, they’ve put themselves in a situation which will backfire on them in the long run.

“I do hope they learn something from this. It’s got nothing to do with political correctness, because it’s not acceptable for anyone to go around abusing people in public. Everyone is different.

“Hopefully we can get to some sort of understanding.”

Paula has been touched by the messages of support she has received since the story broke.

She said: “The response I’ve had from the community has been amazing. Complete strangers have came up to me asking if I’m Paula and shaking my hand!

“But the experience certainly did affect me.

“I’m much more wary of my surroundings now and I’m very wary of teenagers of that age, which is a terrible indictment because I’m sure 99% of them are pretty good kids.”

Sgt James Hart, force lead for hate crime, said: “The actions of these callous individuals were distressing and extremely upsetting for the victim. She was repeatedly targeted because of her gender identity.

“This remains a severely under-reported crime and this victim was very courageous to speak out.

“The success of the case was undoubtedly strengthened by her willingness to report every incident to the police, so we could work with her and collate the evidence required to prosecute these nasty individuals.”

Paula added: “I think it’s about the community pulling together and it’s about education.”