Nick Dean is the sixth UK police chief to say sorry
Cambridgeshire – 20 October 2023
The Chief Constable of Cambridgeshire Police, Nick Dean, has written to Peter Tatchell to “apologise for the unacceptable way in which historical homophobic laws were enforced and the institutional homophobia that existed in the police.”
He is the sixth UK police chief to apologise to the LGBT+ community, following similar apologies by the heads of the Metropolitan, City of London, Sussex, South Yorkshire and Lincolnshire forces.
The campaign, #ApologiseNow, was launched by the Peter Tatchell Foundation in the summer and was backed by the comedian and TV presenter Paul O’Grady before his tragic sudden death.
Responding to an appeal for an apology by the Peter Tatchell Foundation, Nick Dean wrote:
“I want to take this opportunity, during National Hate Crime Week, to apologise to the LGBTQ+ community and their families and friends for how Cambridgeshire Constabulary enforced these laws, the lack of dignity and respect given to members of the community and the lack of confidence and trust that this undoubtedly created in their police force, preventing them from being afforded the same protection and safety which we offered to others.
“I am pleased to say that the force I describe above no longer exists. Cambridgeshire Constabulary has worked hard over many years to educate and train our staff, drive out prejudice and remove those who don’t live up to our values. I recognise that a lack of prejudicial views is not enough – we must ensure that our officers understand the different needs of all our communities, actively engage with them and actively support a more diverse workforce… Our workforce is more diverse than at any time in its history, and in our ongoing work against hate crime we recognise that it is the responsibility of this generation of police officers to rebuild the trust that was eroded by those of the past,” said Mr Dean.
Peter Tatchell today responded with praise for the Chief Constable’s statement:
“Our sincere appreciation to Nick Dean for his fulsome apology to the LGBT+ community on behalf of the Cambridgeshire Constabulary. We are very grateful. This will go a long way towards securing an even better relationship between Cambridgeshire police and the LGBT+ community – further building trust and confidence. It is a commendable continuation of the great work that the police have been doing in recent years.
“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. Nick Dean didn’t hesitate. That marks him out as a commendable police chief. We thank him. This apology does the Cambridgeshire 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.
The #ApologiseNow petition is now live at ApologiseNow.com
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 unlawful 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 in England and Wales – 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, then all forces need to show it by acknowledging past wrongs. They need to follow the laudable lead of the Cambridgeshire, South Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Sussex Chief Constables and the Met and City of London Police Commissioners. All UK police chiefs should apologise for the many decades of past police harassment. Apologise now!
“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,” said Mr Tatchell.