Chief Constable of Sussex, Jo Shiner, makes “full and unreserved apology” to LGBTQ+ community

Graham Robson July 26, 2023

The Chief Constable of Sussex, Jo Shiner, has made a “full and unreserved apology” to the LGBTQ+ community for past, historic “prejudice, ill- treatment, bias, discrimination, harm, (and) injustices” by the police.

Sussex covers the city of Brighton, often referred to as Britain’s gay capital.

She is only the second UK Chief Constable to do so, following a similar apology by the Met Police Commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley, on 7 June.

The campaign was backed by the comedian and TV presenter Paul O’Grady before his death.

Responding to an appeal for an apology by the Peter Tatchell Foundation and following discussions with Peter Tatchell, Jo Shiner has written to him as follows:

“Dear Peter… In response, I write on behalf of Sussex Police to offer an apology and to express my sincere regret for historical prejudice and ill-treatment directed towards LGBTQ+ people in Sussex.

“As Chief Constable, I believe it is crucial to address past injustices and acknowledge the harm caused to individuals and minority groups by discriminatory systems, processes and unacceptable behaviours in policing.

“It is clear that the approach taken in Sussex to enforcing the laws of the day demonstrated bias that impacted uniquely and immeasurably members of the LGBTQ+ community.

“It is my hope that this apology will mark a significant step towards a more inclusive and compassionate future, where the rights and dignity of every individual are recognised, respected and protected…” she said.

CLICK HERE for the Sussex Chief Constable’s letter

Peter Tatchell responded with praise for the Chief Constable’s statement, saying: “It is a moving, generous apology that comes across as passionate, heartfelt and sincere, which I know it is.

“Some people in power find it hard to say sorry for past wrongs. Jo Shiner didn’t. That marks her out as a forthright and commendable Chief Constable.

“This apology does the Sussex Police proud and will win much appreciation and praise from the LGBTQ+ community.

“Having drawn a line under past police homophobia, I hope this will boost LGBTQ+ 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 Sussex Chief Constable’s apology is in response to the #ApologiseNow campaign organised by the Peter Tatchell Foundation. It is asking every Chief Constable in the UK to say sorry for past homophobic persecution.

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.

“If the police say they have changed, they need to show it by acknowledging past wrongs.”

“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 illegal 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 – 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. They need to follow the laudable lead of the Sussex Chief Constable and the Met Police Commissioner. All Chief Constables should apologise for the many decades of past police harassment. Apologise now!”

The #ApologiseNow petition is now live. Other police services across the UK are currently engaging with the #ApologiseNow campaign, but as discussions are on-going, Peter Tatchell Foundation will not be naming them.