Merseyside Police's apology to LGBTQ+ community 'helps draw a line'

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

Merseyside Police Force’s apology to the region’s LGBTQ+ community will “go a long way”, it has been claimed.

This evening, Wednesday, June 5, 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.

She 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”.

READ MORE: Merseyside Police apologises for historic mistreatment of LGBTQ+ community

READ MORE: Dad felt 'close to death' before his life changed forever

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. The initiative, which was 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.

Mr Tatchell said the apology will be “appreciated” by members of the community.

He told the ECHO: “My immense gratitude to Serena Kennedy for her forthright apology to the LGBT+ community on behalf of Merseyside police – and for the new positive, supportive and inclusive LGBT+ policies she set out in her letter to me.

“Some people in power find it hard to say sorry for past wrongs. Chief Kennedy didn’t hesitate or evade the need for a clear apology. That marks her out as a commendable police chief. We thank her and her officers.

“This apology does the Merseyside Police proud and will win much appreciation and praise from the LGBT+ community. It will go a long way towards securing a more constructive, collaborative relationship between Merseyside police and LGBT+ people – further building trust and cooperation.

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

“What particularly impresses us is not just the apology but the LGBT+ Action Plan, which will further enhance community relations going forward.

“Saying sorry helps draw a line under past police homophobia. It’s a laudable continuation of the great work the police have been doing in recent years. I hope it will inspire more LGBTs to report hate crime, domestic abuse and sexual assaults, which is what we all want.”

In her apology statement, Constable Kennedy recognised her force's past actions had "ruined lives" and "had a lasting negative impact".

She said: “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
Peter Tatchell arriving at the funeral

“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.”

The full statement can be read here.

Peter Tatchell said he will be continuing to urge every Chief Constable in the UK to apologise for their force’s historic homophobic persecution in decades past. 26 remaining forces have yet to do so.

Sign up for the ECHO’s LGBTQIA+ newsletter