Still no apology
London / Birmingham, UK – 27 May 2023
West Midland’s Chief Constable was challenged at Birmingham Pride over his force’s refusal to apologise for its past witch-hunting of the LGBT+ community.
The first request for an apology was made at Birmingham Pride in 2021, and subsequent requests have been made, the most recent earlier this year. There has been no engagement and still no apology! Other forces are engaging.
As Saturday’s Pride march began, Chief Constable Craig Guildford was confronted by Pliny Soocoormanee, a West Midlands resident, and Executive Officer at the Peter Tatchell Foundation.
Pliny Soocoormanee reminded Mr Guildford that in the decades before the full decriminalisation of homosexuality in 2003, West Midlands officers went out of their way to target and arrest thousands of gay and bisexual men for consenting, victimless behaviour.
They were one of the most zealously homophobic police forces in the country, with arrest figures way above the national average.
Pliny said, ‘The West Midlands force targeted consenting, victimless behaviour that harmed no one. Over the decades, it wrecked the lives of thousands of LGBT+ people.’
Pliny added, “Mr Guildford has promised to respond this time, and we look forward to a speedy and positive dialogue. LGBTs in the West Midlands deserve this.”
Police forces worldwide have apologised for similar behaviour, but West Midlands won’t discuss it. In contrast, two other major police services are engaging positively and constructively with the #ApologiseNow campaign launched by the Peter Tatchell Foundation. While discussions are ongoing, we will not be releasing the names of these forces.
“The failure of the police to say whether they will apologise is an act of bad faith. It shows contempt for the LGBT+ community,” said Peter Tatchell.
West Midlands Police has failed to respond to an invitation to attend a meeting at the House of Lords on 7 June to discuss the case for an apology with MPs and Lords, chaired by Baroness Helena Kennedy KC.
“The lack of engagement by West Midland’s police is extremely disappointing and sends a very negative signal to the LGBT+ community. We hope they will reconsider and make an apology before Birmingham Pride this Saturday,” added Peter Tatchell.
“The former Chief Constable, Sir David Thompson, apologised in 2020 to the black community for the history of racism by its officers. This apology was applauded. It strengthens the case for a similar apology to the LGBT+ community.
“A formal apology would draw a line under past homophobic persecution and help improve LGBT+ trust and confidence in the police, which is what we all want,” said Mr Tatchell, director of the human rights organisation, the Peter Tatchell Foundation.
Copy of Peter Tatchell’s letter to West Midland’s Chief Constable:
West Midlands Police
14 April 2023
Dear Graig Guildford.
Congratulations on your appointment as Chief Constable of the West Midlands.
My gratitude to you and your officers for your supportive policies towards the LGBT+ community. It is great progress.
However, in order to draw a line under the past extreme persecution of LGBT+ people by West Midlands police, I hope that you will agree that some expression of remorse is appropriate.
Your force was for many decades one of the most homophobic in Britain, devoting huge and disproportionate resources to hunt down LGBT+ people for consenting behaviour that harmed no one.
While you are not responsible for past wrongs, you are head of the force that witch-hunted us and wrecked LGBT+ lives. I would respectfully request you to put the past behind us by making an apology to the LGBT+ community, so we can move forward together.
I note with gratitude that your predecessor, Sir David Thompson, apologised in 2020 to the black community for the history of racism by the West Midlands police.
I hope that you’ll also recognise the merit and importance of an apology to the LGBT+ community. It would help further improve LGBT+ trust and confidence in the police, which is what we all want.
In the decades before the full decriminalisation of homosexuality in 2003, West Midlands officers went out of their way to target and arrest thousands of gay and bisexual men for consenting, victimless behaviour. They were one of the most zealously homophobic police forces in the country, with arrest figures way above the national average.
Your force had a vindictive policy of releasing the names, addresses and workplaces of arrested men to the media, which led to public humiliation, ostracism, evictions, sackings and even violent attack.
Upon conviction, these men were often jailed and beaten in prison. Others were hit with huge fines. Many lost their jobs, homes and marriages. Some were bashed by homophobic mobs, driven to mental breakdowns and attempted or committed suicide.
With the stigma of a criminal conviction for a homosexual offence, a lot of the victims of police homophobia had great difficulty in getting jobs and housing. Their lives were ruined by the police.
I hope you might consider a formal apology to the LGBT+ community, ahead of the upcoming Birmingham Pride on 27 May.
Director, Peter Tatchell Foundation