Chris Haward is the fifth UK police chief to say sorry
London – 6 September 2023
The Chief Constable of Lincolnshire Police, Chris Haward, has said “sorry” and officially apologised to the LGBT+ community for his force’s past historic homophobic persecution.
He is only the fifth UK police chief to do so, following a similar apology by the heads of the Metropolitan, City of London, Sussex and South Yorkshire forces.
The campaign, #ApologiseNow, was launched by human rights activist Peter Tatchell and was backed by the comedian and TV presenter Paul O’Grady before his death.
Responding to an appeal for an apology by the Peter Tatchell Foundation, Chris Haward said:
“Lincoln Pride is a fantastic community event, and I’m really pleased to have seen so many of our officers and staff engaging in the way they did. This can only help to build the trust and confidence our LGBTQ+ communities have in us and show that Lincolnshire Police are here to support them and keep them safe. I do expect my officers and staff to engage with people in such a positive celebration and to show our human side, behind the uniform, to help build strong relationships for the future. This will help to restore trust and confidence that has been affected by past injustices and inequity due to historical laws, policies and processes not always being used correctly. As Chief Constable I am sorry our LGBTQ+ communities have been disproportionately affected in this way and there is no doubt this has damaged their trust in the police. I want to make sure we move forward in a positive way and deliver a service that is reflective and inclusive of all the communities we serve, treating everyone fairly, with respect, to ensure they are protected from discrimination.”
Peter Tatchell today responded with praise for the Chief Constable’s statement:
“It is a forthright, generous apology that comes across as passionate and genuine.
“Some people in power find it hard to say sorry for past wrongs. Chris Haward didn’t hesitate. That marks him out as a commendable police chief. We thank him.
“This apology does the Lincolnshire police proud and will win much appreciation and praise from the LGBT+ community.
“Having drawn a line under past police homophobia, I hope this will boost LGBT+ confidence in the police and encourage more LGBTs to report hate crime, domestic violence and sexual assault,” said Peter Tatchell, Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation.
The Peter Tatchell Foundation is asking every Chief Constable in the UK to say sorry for past homophobic persecution.
Peter Tatchell added:
“We are not asking the police to apologise for enforcing the law, but to apologise for the often illegal and abusive way they enforced it.
“Officers raided gay bars, clubs and even private birthday parties, insulting LGBTs as ‘poofs’ and ‘queers’. They gave the names and addresses of arrested gay men to local papers, which led to some being evicted, sacked and violently beaten. Police harassed LGBTs leaving gay venues and arrested same-sex couples for kissing, cuddling and holding hands, right up until the 1990s.
“The police did not make the law but they chose to enforce it in ways that today would be deemed illegal and unacceptable. They went out of their way to target gay and bisexual men to boost their arrest figures and ‘crime fighting’ reputation. Young handsome male officers were sent into public toilets and parks, where they lured gay men into committing offences and then arrested them. These so-called ‘pretty police’ acted as agents provocateurs.
“The yearly average of homosexual offences recorded by the police in England and Wales was nearly three times greater after the partial decriminalisation of male homosexuality in 1967, than it was in the previous eight decades of total criminalisation – clear evidence of a police witch-hunt.
“At the height of this post-1967 persecution, in 1989 there were 1,718 convictions and cautions for so-called ‘gross indecency’ between men – almost as many as in 1954-55 when male homosexuality was totally illegal, and the country was gripped by a McCarthyite-style anti-gay witch hunt.
“If the police say they have changed, they need to show it by acknowledging past wrongs. They need to follow the laudable lead of the South Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Sussex Chief Constables and the Met and City of London Police Commissioners. All Chief Constables should apologise for the many decades of past police harassment. Apologise now!” said Mr Tatchell.
The #ApologiseNow petition is now live at ApologiseNow.com
“Other police services across the UK are currently engaging with the #ApologiseNow campaign, but as discussions are on-going we will not be naming them.