City of London Police apologises for “past LGBTQ+ witch-hunts”

Graham Robson August 30, 2023

The Commissioner of the City of London Police, Angela McLaren, has said “sorry” and made an official apology to the LGBTQ+ community for her force’s past historic homophobic persecution.

She is only the fourth UK police chief to do so, following a similar apology by the heads of the Metropolitan, Sussex and South Yorkshire forces.

The campaign, #ApologiseNow, was launched by human rights activist Peter Tatchell and 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, Angela McLaren said: “Please accept this letter from City of London Police as our apology for the damaging way laws were enforced against the LGBTQ+ community by policing historically.

“We acknowledge that the persecution of the LGBTQ+ community took place as the result of legislation which was, thankfully, abolished. We accept that attitudes towards the LGBTQ+ community and policing practices that occurred at that time were particularly harmful.

Angela McLaren

“I understand the merit and importance of an apology for such practices and the detrimental impact it had on so many.

“My hope is that this recognition of failings and harm to the LGBTQ+ community, under the now abolished legislation, demonstrates our commitment to strengthen our relationships with the LGBTQ+ community and all other communities we serve.”


Peter Tatchell, Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation, responded with praise for the Commissioner’s statement: “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. Angela McLaren didn’t hesitate. That marks her out as a commendable Commissioner. We thank her.

“This apology does the City of London 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.”

The Peter Tatchell Foundation is asking every Chief Constable in the UK to say sorry for past homophobic persecution.

Peter Tatchell

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 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.

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

 “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 South Yorkshire and Sussex Chief Constables and the Met and City of London Police Commissioners. All Chief Constables should apologise for the many decades of past police harassment. Apologise now!” said Mr Tatchell.

The #ApologiseNow petition is now live at