Suffolk police apologise to LGBT+ community for past witch-hunts

Twenty police forces to say sorry to LGBTs


6 June 2024

Suffolk’s Chief Constable, Rachel Kearton, has made a formal apology to the LGBT+ community, acknowledging past homophobic witch-hunts and discriminatory law enforcement.

In a letter to LGBT+ campaigner Peter Tatchell, Kearton expressed regret for the harm caused by the often-abusive way the police enforced historic anti-LGBT+ laws:
“I recognise that damaging attitudes and actions, both at leadership and operational levels, created a divide in confidence and trust in local policing that is still felt today. I also acknowledge the fear bred of police mistreatment that rests within some of our most vulnerable communities.

Over the years, the LGBT+ community has faced significant challenges and discrimination, especially those of older generations. The approach taken to enforcing the laws of the day demonstrated bias that impacted uniquely and immeasurably towards members of the LGBT+ community.

Although I cannot alter the past, I want to sincerely apologise for the damage caused to our communities, with the unwavering promise that we are committed to learning from our mistakes and ensuring that they are not repeated in the future,” Kearton wrote.

Swann is one of Twenty UK police chiefs to apologise, following similar apologies by the heads of the Metropolitan, City of London, Sussex, South Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Gwent, Avon & Somerset, Cambridgeshire, Gloucestershire, Dorset, West Mercia, North Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Merseyside, Northumbria, Wiltshire, Police Scotland and Nottinghamshire forces.

Her apology is in response to the #ApologiseNow campaign initiated by the Peter Tatchell Foundation. The campaign was backed by comedian and TV presenter Paul O’Grady before his untimely passing.

The Chief Constable’s full letter can be read here

Peter Tatchell expressed gratitude for Rachel Swann’s apology:

“My immense gratitude to Rachel Kearton for her forthright apology to the LGBT+ community on behalf of Suffolk police – and for the 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. Rachel Kearton 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 Suffolk 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 Suffolk police and LGBT+ people – further building trust and cooperation.

“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,” said Mr Tatchell.

The Peter Tatchell Foundation continues to urge every Chief Constable in the UK to apologise for their force’s historic homophobic persecution in decades past. We continue to chase the remaining 30 police forces that have not said sorry.

The #ApologiseNow petition can be read and signed at