Merseyside Police pulled a campaign against LGBT+ hate crime that was attacked by Brexit campaigners.
Former UKIP MEP Roger Helmer and the campaign group Leave.EU were among those to lay into the force over the billboard campaign operating in the Wirral during LGBT+ History Month.
The billboards included the slogan “being offensive is an offence”, adding: “Merseyside Police stand with and support the LGBTQI+ community, we will not tolerate hate crime on any level. Come and speak to #TeamBeb”.
Helmer was among those leading the charge on Twitter, demanding the police investigate themselves for the slogan.
— MerPol Wirral (@MerPolWirral) February 20, 2021
The politician, who sat in the European Parliament for for 15 years as a Conservative before representing UKIP from 2014 to 2017, complained: “I find that these attempts by Merseyside Police to deny free speech are offensive. So by their own logic, they have committed an offence. Will they please now investigate themselves for a ‘hate crime’?”
Former Brexit campaign group Leave.EU shared a link accusing the police of “pandering to the LGBTQ community”, adding: “[Merseyside Police] later admitted they hadn’t been honest with the public. Classic tyranny of the minority stuff here. Shameful.”
Merseyside Police apologise for saying ‘being offensive is an offence’
Merseyside Police opted to immediately disavow their own campaign.
Superintendent Martin Earl said: “We would like to clarify that ‘being offensive’ is not in itself an offence.
“A message on an ad van and social media this weekend by the local policing team on the Wirral to encourage people to report hate crime although well intentioned was incorrect and we apologise for any confusion this may have caused.
“Hate crime is an offence and will not be tolerated. Hate crime can come in various guises that can include assault criminal damage, verbal and written online abuse.
“Our hate crime co-ordinators draw on a wealth of experience and expertise to provide effective and above all sensitive and appropriate support for victims.
“We would also like to remind people we have a number of third party reporting centres including fire stations and activity centres which enable people who feel more comfortable discussing their issues with an independent party to come forward.”
The Merseyside Police website says: “Despite the efforts the force makes to provide support our LGBT+ communities across Merseyside, we know that many can still be blighted by intolerance and hate. We’re here and ready to help anyone who has been affected by someone else’s prejudice, ignorance or violence. To find out how to spot a hate crime, report it, or get help, support and advice – both online and in your community, you can do so by visiting our hate crime advice page.
“You can report hate crime to Merseyside Police, either as a victim or for someone else, on 101 or 999. You can also report a hate crime on our website.”
Roger Helmer knows a thing or two about offensive comments
As an MEP, Helmer was known for his antiquated views on homosexuality, claiming that he should be able to dislike gay people in the same way as different types of tea.
He described homosexuality as “not a lifestyle worthy of equal respect” and claimed it is fair to see it as “abhorrent to God”. He also likened same-sex marriage to incest, saying: “If two men have a right to marry, how can we deny the same right to two siblings? Are we to authorise incest?”
He asked in 2011: “Why is it OK for a surgeon to perform a sex change operation, but not OK for a psychiatrist to ‘turn’ a consenting homosexual?”
Helmer’s career was dented in 2014 after a tabloid newspaper published a report claiming the married MEP had visited a ‘sleazy’ massage parlour. He later announced divorce proceedings, adding: “MEPs are entitled to a private life. I work extremely hard and when I do occasionally have time off I enjoy a massage. I hope my constituents will agree people are entitled to enjoy their leisure time as they please.”