Belfast Telegraph

Positive step to right historic injustice

By Gavin Boyd

The criminalisation of gay and bisexual men casts a long shadow in Northern Ireland.

Although the laws which sought to lock us up for our relationships were repealed more than 30 years ago, the damage done then is still felt today.

It is felt in a lingering distrust of police by members of the LGBT community.

For LGBT people who grew up during the time of criminalisation, they learnt the lesson that the police were not a service built to protect them.

Instead, the police were the people who turned a blind eye to homophobic assaults, raided our bars, harassed us in the street, arrested us, searched our homes and outed us to our friends and family members without our consent.

Decriminalisation - coupled with the suite of anti-discrimination legislation - did not necessarily lead to improved confidence in the police from the LGBT community.

Hate crimes and intimidation were still under-reported because of fears that police were not interested in protecting LGBT people.

To their credit, the PSNI recognised that they had significant work to do before they would be a trusted service within the community and embarked on a long process of engagement which has significantly increased trust in the police by LGBT people.

To create a better relationship with the community, the PSNI has developed specific resources on homophobic and transphobic hate crime, they have attended community events, their presence outside our bars and clubs at the weekend ensures that we can get home safely and they march with us in our Pride parades.

Now, as historically has been done for Catholics and women, the PSNI is actively seeking to recruit LGBT people to ensure that the service is representative of the community it serves.

This is another positive step for the PSNI and we are happy to support them.

Gavin Boyd is the Rainbow Project's policy and advocacy manager

Belfast Telegraph

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