Met Police apologises for past homophobia and acknowledges ‘racists and misogynists’ in force

Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley

The Metropolitan Police have admitted to “failings of the past” after being urged to apologise to the LGBTQ+ community by human rights activist Peter Tatchell. 

On Wednesday (7 June), #ApologiseNow – a nation-wide campaign that aims to secure apologies from all UK chief constables for historical mistreatment of the LGBTQ+ community – was launched in the House of Lords.

At the launch, a personal letter to Tatchell from Met Police commissioner Mark Rowley was read out. 

In the letter, Rowley acknowledged that the Met has had “systems and processes in place which have led to bias and discrimination”. 

The country’s top police officer went on: “Recent cases of appalling behaviour by some officers have revealed that there are still racists, misogynists, homophobes and transphobes in the organisation, and we have already doubled down on rooting out those who corrupt and abuse their position.

“I am clear that there is much for us to do. I am sorry to all the communities we have let down for the failings of the past and look forward to building a new Met for London, one all Londoners can be proud of and in which they can have confidence.”

You may like to watch

‘A ground-breaking step forward’

Tatchell thanked Rowley for being the first UK police chief to apologise as part of the campaign.

“His apology is a ground-breaking step forward that will, we hope, spur other police forces to follow suit,” the veteran campaigner said. 

“It draws a line under past Met persecution. This will help strengthen LGBT+ trust and confidence in the police, encouraging more LGBTs to report hate crime, domestic violence and sexual assault.”

The #ApologiseNow campaign launch, hosted by Baroness Helena Kennedy, featured a video of late TV star Paul O’Grady, to whom the campaign is dedicated, urging the police to apologise for their past “disgusting homophobia”.

O’Grady died in March, aged 67.

Met Police institutionally racist, sexist and homophobic

In March, the Baroness Casey review, commissioned in the wake of the murder of Sarah Everard in 2021 by serving firearms office Wayne Couzens, examined the culture and standards in London’s police force.

It found the Met to be institutionally racist, sexist and homophobic.

In one incident, a straight male police officer told an open-plan office that gay sex is “disgusting”.

Rowley accepted the report’s findings but rejected the use of the term “institutional”, claiming it is political. He said at the time he was “deeply sorry” for the “appalling examples of discrimination”.

Tatchell, who recalled that police used to treat LBGTQ+ people “as though we were criminals”, has previously told PinkNews he agreed that the Met are “institutionally homophobic”. 

He referred to the Met’s failure to fully investigate the murder of four young gay men by serial killer Stephen Port. 

An independent inspection by the Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS), commissioned by London mayor Sadiq Khan, found that the failings that allowed Port to murder the men while avoiding detection meant it could happen again. 

Port was handed a life sentence in 2016 after being found guilty of numerous counts of sexual assault and murder. He received a whole life order, meaning he will never be released.

The Met faced renewed criticism last August after announcing it will compensate the families of three of the four men, reportedly without informing them first. 

West Midlands Police refuses to apologise for homophobia

At the start of May, Tatchell also called on the West Midland’s Police to apologise for its history of homophobia, accusing the force of being “one of the most zealously homophobic police forces in the country, with arrest figures way above the national average” before the full decriminalisation of homosexuality in 2003.

The force had reportedly released names, addresses and workplaces of men arrested for being gay, leading to extreme and, in some cases, violent repercussions for those involved.

In June, chief constable Craig Guildford, whom Tatchell previously described as the current “head of the force that witch-hunted us and wrecked LGBT+ lives”, refused to make a formal apology.