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Avon and Somerset Police apologise for historic over policing of LGBT+ communities

Chief Constable Sarah Crew has today apologised to Peter Tatchell, in response to his Apologise Now campaign, calling on all British police forces to say sorry for their role in over policing and under protecting LGBT+ people.

Here is the letter in full:

Dear Peter,

I am writing in response to your Apologise Now campaign and your request for British police forces to apologise for their role in the historic over policing of LGBT+ people and communities. I acknowledge the important work you are continuing doing to advance LGBT+ rights and to safeguard those who have historically not received fair or just treatment from the institutions which are here to keep us all safe.

I want to start with an apology. I am sorry for the over-policing and under-protection that LGBT+ people have suffered in Avon and Somerset in the past. The police enforce the law, but some of the laws we enforced in the past were discriminatory and our role in this has undoubtedly led to significant hurt, pain and anger, which has damaged our relationship with LGBT+ people and reduced their trust and confidence in us.

I hope that by acknowledging the hurt we have caused in the past, we can start to rebuild our relationship with LGBT+ communities in Avon and Somerset. We are not the same police service that we were in the 70s, 80s or even 90s. In Avon and Somerset, we have an ambition to be the most inclusive police service in the country and I take my responsibility to police legitimately and by consent very seriously.

We are currently developing a plan, to help rebuild the trust and confidence of  LGBT+ people and communities, so that they feel empowered to report crime. We are keen to increase the reporting of hate crime, domestic abuse and sexual assault, which we believe LGBT+ people currently under-report to us. These crimes have a devastating impact on individuals, families and communities, and it is vital people have the confidence to come forward and seek help from the police when they occur.

We are developing our plan in partnership with Avon and Somerset Police’s LGBT+ staff association, which will include going out to consult and seek feedback from our local LGBT+ stakeholders. Actions we are taking and considering include:

  • Establishing better relations and mechanisms to build links with LGBT+ communities and open forums for issues to be raised and addressed.
  • The development of a network of diversity advisors, including people with lived experience of LGBT+ issues, to support staff and officers and advise on investigations when a lens of lived experience would be beneficial.
  • The development of increased quality and visibility of data to help us understand levels of hate crime against staff and officers where LGBT+ is an aggravating factor, our prosecution rates for LGBT+ hate crime, reporting rates, victim satisfaction rates and any disproportionality in our internal processes and policies.
  • Reviewing hate crime training for new officers to ensure that all aggravating factors are included.
  •  Ensuring the learning from the Stephen Port case has been absorbed and embedded in our CID and investigations teams.

These are just some of the measures we are taking to repair and strengthen our relationship with members of our community who identify as LGBT+.

We aim to hold the first of a series of community engagement events in February 2024 where we will consult on our plan to ensure LGBT+ voices are at its centre.  

Thank you for your challenge to me, and my peers, to own the mistakes of our past and to strive for a more inclusive and fairer policing service.

I look forward to working with you as we progress this.

Yours Sincerely

Chief Constable Sarah Crew