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Police chief apologises to LGBTQ+ community amid calls for nationwide forces to follow suit

Northumbria Police has joined the list of forces to apologise via the Peter Tatchell Foundation for past homophobic actions

By Dale Fox

Chief Constable of Northumbria Police Vanessa Jardine
Chief Constable of Northumbria Police Vanessa Jardine (Image: Northumbria Police)

Chief Constable of Northumbria Police Vanessa Jardine has apologised to the LGBTQ+ community for past discriminatory practices within her force, with the Peter Tatchell Foundation urging all constabularies across the UK to do the same.

Jardine, who leads on LGBTQ+ matters within the National Police Chiefs Council, also emphasised the importance of addressing the harm caused by historical anti-LGBTQ+ laws, in an apology letter to the foundation.

“As the portfolio holder with the National Police Chiefs Council, I will continue to encourage colleagues to review your request for an apology,” Jardine stated in the letter [PDF].

“I am also working on a National LGBTQ+ Strategy which I am hoping will be seen as another positive step towards building a more inclusive future.”

Meanwhile, Jardine expressed regret for the abusive manner in which officers previously enforced anti-LGBTQ+ laws. “Whilst it is not possible to change history it is extremely important that we learn from it and strive to build better relationships going forward. It is imperative that we continue to develop trust and compassion.”

Northumbria Police joins a growing list of UK police forces that have issued similar statements. These include the Metropolitan, City of London, Sussex, South Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Gwent, Avon & Somerset, Cambridgeshire, Gloucestershire, Dorset, West Mercia, North Yorkshire, Wiltshire, Devon & Cornwall, and Nottinghamshire forces.

Lack of police apologies “sends a very negative, even hostile, message to the LGBT+ community” – Peter Tatchell

The #ApologiseNow campaign was initiated by the Peter Tatchell Foundation and backed by the late comedian and TV presenter Paul O’Grady. It continues to push for apologies from the remaining 29 police forces in the UK that have not yet issued statements of regret for their historical homophobic persecution.

In response to Jardine’s letter, Peter Tatchell expressed his gratitude for Jardine’s apology. “Some people in power find it hard to say sorry for past wrongs. Vanessa Jardine didn’t hesitate or evade the need for a clear apology. That marks her out as a commendable police chief,” he remarked.

However, Tatchell also noted that some police forces, such as West Midlands and North Wales, have refused to apologise. While others, including Greater Manchester, Liverpool, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, have yet to respond to requests from the foundation for an apology. “This sends a very negative, even hostile, message to the LGBT+ community,” Tatchell stated.