Merseyside Police apologises for historic mistreatment of LGBTQ+ community

Merseyside Police Chief Constable Serena Kennedy. Photo by Colin Lane
-Credit: (Image: Colin Lane/Liverpool Echo)


Merseyside Police Force has apologised for its historic treatment of the region's LGBTQ+ community.

Chief Constable Serena Kennedy apologised for her force's “over-policing” imposed on the community through the enforcement of legislation that was previously in place.

The force is the 18th in the UK to offer an apology and recognise homophobic victimisation. It comes months after queer activist Peter Tatchell and his charity launched the Apologise Now! Campaign.

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The initiative, backed by Birkenhead’s Paul O’Grady before his death, calls on forces up and down the country to consider the “decades-long victimisation” of the LGBTQ+ community.

This evening, Wednesday, June 5, Chief Constable Kennedy met with representatives from the LGBTQ+ community to apologise in person for the wrongs of the past - “recognising that policing has moved on over the last 20 years and there is still work to be done to improve trust and confidence”.

In her apology statement, she said: “When I received the letter (from Peter Tatchell detailing the campaign) I gave considerable thought to his request, and immediately recognised the need to address past injustices and acknowledge the harm caused by over-zealous policing and behaviour, policies and processes that enabled homophobia to thrive at that time.

“I wanted to understand the lived experience of our LGBTQ+ communities in Merseyside, both historically and now, so I could appreciate the detrimental impact policing had on those people.

Peter Tatchell's campaign was backed by comedian and TV presenter Paul O'Grady before his death.
Peter Tatchell's campaign was backed by comedian and TV presenter Paul O'Grady before his death. -Credit:Peter Tatchell Foundation

“As a result, we have undertaken extensive consultation with our communities, staff, and our LGBTQ+ network over the past 12 months in preparation for today and I am extremely grateful to those who were willing to share their traumatic experiences with us.”

“I wanted to understand the lived experience of our LGBTQ+ communities in Merseyside, both historically and now, so I could appreciate the detrimental impact policing had on those people.

“As a result, we have undertaken extensive consultation with our communities, staff, and our LGBTQ+ network over the past 12 months in preparation for today and I am extremely grateful to those who were willing to share their traumatic experiences with us.

“I am committed to ongoing consultation and engagement to further understand the impact of that time, to ensure we continue to learn from our mistakes and build on proactive and positive work that has been undertaken by the force over many years.

“Improving the confidence of our LGBTQ+ communities is of paramount importance to me, and I am determined to further build on the trust we have gained

“It has been a deeply humbling experience to consider in-depth our past mistakes, particularly by an organisation I am so incredibly proud of today.

Peter Tatchell arriving at the funeral
LGBTQ+ campaigner Peter Tatchell arriving at Paul O'Grady's funeral -Credit:Joe Maher/Getty Images

“I now have an informed understanding of the harm that has been caused over the years and I wanted to apologise on behalf of Merseyside Police, for our historic mistreatment of our LGBTQ+ communities and our homophobic application of the legislation in place at the time, which was wrongly used to proactively target members of the LGBTQ+ community, in particular gay and bisexual men.

“This ruined lives as it had a lasting negative impact on those who were targeted. As a result of the overuse of that legislation members of that community didn’t feel they could be open to be who they were, or about the people they loved, for fear they would be arrested and sent to prison.”

Chief Constable Kennedy added: “I know I cannot change the past and it saddens me greatly to think that our historic actions have diminished trust in Merseyside Police and led to feelings of injustice that persist for some today.

“It has been really encouraging to hear from our communities and stakeholders during our consultation leading up to tonight, and seeing how far they think we have moved on.

"I wholeheartedly agree that policing has changed considerably in that time, but I want to ensure we do not forget our past and ensure the learning over the years galvanises our ongoing commitment and continuous improvement, to ensure we deliver the best possible service to all our LGBTQ+ communities.”

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