Apologise Now campaign launch: House of Lords 7 June 2023
Three police forces are currently engaging with the campaign
London – 6 June 2023
A new campaign to get British police forces to apologise for their past homophobic witch-hunts is being launched on Wednesday 7 June 2023, at 12 noon, in the House of Lords, with Baroness Helena Kennedy KC. It will feature a video by Paul O’Grady, recorded before his death.
The campaign is called “Apologise now!” and is organised by the Peter Tatchell Foundation.
You can sign the Peter Tatchell Foundation petition at ApologiseNow.com
The late TV star Paul O’Grady backed the apology campaign. He was present during a police raid on the gay bar, the Royal Vauxhall Tavern in London, on 24 January 1987. He describes the raid as “homophobic…we were being treated like animals.” See more quotes from Paul below.
We will play Paul’s video, hear the testimony of those affected and cross live to the Isle of Man, where its police force has apologised.
Three police services are currently engaging with the campaign, but as discussions are in an early stage, we will not be naming them.
“We need this apology to draw a line under past homophobic victimisation, and to boost LGBT+ trust and confidence in the police to report hate crime, domestic abuse and sexual assault,” said Peter Tatchell, Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation.
“We are asking the Metropolitan Police and all other police services to apologise for their past persecution of the LGBT+ community. We are not asking them 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 assaulted. Police harassed LGBTs leaving gay venues and arrested same-sex couples for kissing, cuddling and holding hands until the 1990s.
“The police did not make the law but chose to enforce it zealously. They went out of their way to target gay and bisexual men. 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 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.
“Police forces in New York, Copenhagen, Sydney, Berlin, Amsterdam, Montreal and San Francisco have apologised, as has the Chief Constable of the Isle of Man. UK police should do the same,” said Mr Tatchell.
A petition urging a police apology has been launched: www.apologisenow.com
Paul O’Grady’s account of the police raid on the Royal Vauxhall Tavern on 24 January 1987:
“Police have apologised all around the world for their behaviour all those years ago. I think it is about time the British police did the same thing and said we are so sorry for what happened, because it was unnecessary. It was homophobic,” said Mr O’Grady
“I’d only been there for about ten minutes and a copper burst in the dressing room. I thought he was a stripper. He was so rude and so aggressive. And when I came out on the stage, they were all wearing rubber gloves. I said: ‘Oh good, have you come to do the washing up?’ There was pandemonium and people were scared.
“I was called a lascivious act in the South London Press and to tell you the truth I was delighted about that.
“Past injustices often cross my mind and this is one of them. The bloody cheek of them. It was disgusting, it was just offensive. We were being treated like animals. Pure homophobia that’s what it was. And nothing else will make me change my mind. So apologise, because I know where you are!” said Mr O’Grady.
Peter Tatchell added:
“We had the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester, James Anderton, saying that gay people were ‘swirling round in a cesspit of their own making.’ He gave a green light for the police across the country to persecute our community.
“At the height of this 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. This means the Met Police Commissioner and all Chief Constables should apologise for the many decades of past police harassment. Apologise now!”