Gay Met Police LGBT+ liaison officer ‘not afraid’ to hold force to account over failings

PC Sam Varnham

A newly appointed gay Metropolitan Police LGBT+ liaison officer has said he isn’t afraid to hold the force to account, following years of the force failing London’s queer community.

The Met announced last month that it was restoring full-time LGBT+ liaison officers as a “crucial part of the mission for more trust” within the queer community.

The announcement followed commissioner Mark Rowley admitting to “failings of the past” after being urged to apologise to the community by human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.

PC Sam Varnham, an LGBT+ community liaison officer (CLO) for Harrow, Barnet and Brent, told PinkNews the roles will help strengthen the Met’s reputation with the LGBTQ+ community. 

The 31-year-old officer, who is gay and has worked for the Met for the past five years, said the chance be a CLO excited him because he can bring his personal life to the workplace.

He has been in the role for three months and despite his positivity about it, Sam admits he is all too aware of the Met’s previous failings. 

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This new bid to increase trust follows the Met’s botched investigation of serial killer Stephen Port, who murdered four young gay men: Anthony Walgate, Gabriel Kovari, Daniel Whitworth and Jack Taylor. An inquest jury found a “large number of very serious and very basic investigative failings”.

Port was found guilty of the murders and a string of sexual assaults against other men and is serving a whole-life jail term.

Varnham said: “Being gay myself and a police officer, I am very aware of the history. I have to remind myself and other people that I’m there because I genuinely believe there is amazing work happening behind the scenes, but that work won’t happen unless there are people like [me] who have such strong-lived experience in the LGBTQ+ community.” 

The community’s lack of trust in the Met means most LGBTQ+ hate crime victims fail to report a crime because they feel it’s “too minor” and they don’t trust the force, a study revealed last year.

Varnham said: “If you have a gut feeling that something isn’t right, and you want to speak to the police about it, it’s never going to be too minor. 

“Please reach out and discuss it with us. Keep an open mind now, knowing we’ve got these specific CLOs there to help as well as referring victims to LGBT charities.” 

He said reporting crimes is crucial in enabling the Met to “build a bigger picture”. 

‘Strengthen and repair bridges that have been burnt’

The CLO roles also address Baroness Casey’s report which criticised the Met for its lack of accountability, especially when dealing with marginalised groups. 

Varnham’s testimony was one of the many cited in the report. He shared his experience of being the victim of a “homophobic onslaught of abuse” while arresting a suspect. 

“I felt it wasn’t handled well internally at all,” he said, adding that the experience made him want to help the victims of crimes feel supported. 

“I’m glad that it has been reported because it holds the Met to account and I’m not afraid in any which way to be holding the Met to account. That’s how things are going to get better.” 

He acknowledged that CLOs won’t “fix things overnight” but said they’re one step closer to helping to “strengthen and repair bridges that have been burnt”. 

He hopes that more crimes will be reported by the LGBTQ+ community in the future and has already set his sights on creating the first mini Pride on his patch.

Anyone who has witnessed or experienced a hate crime is urged to call the police on 101, Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or visit the True Vision website. In an emergency, always dial 999.

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