Monday, December 3, 2007

Johann Hari asks: Are the police institutionally homophobic?

This article in the Independent this morning, by Johann Hari, is worth reading. It really is outrageous that we are still needing to have this sort of debate in Britain. One particular passage caught my attention: April night, Michael Boothe – a 48-year-old gay actor – went looking for sex in a public toilet near his home in west London. A few people there might have recognised him from his TV and West End work, but the group of seven thugs who entered the toilets were not interested in any of that. They were there to beat a faggot to death.

They dragged Michael outside and began stamping on his head and chest, punching and smashing his body so hard that his left foot was severed from his leg. A local gang known for yelling homophobic abuse had been reported for kicking off in the area that night. The police arrested them – but they took no forensic evidence and didn't bother to search their homes.

The police then publicly blamed the victim. They said his "lifestyle" meant he was "destined to come into contact with his murderers". Chief Superintendent Shoemake went further, declaring: "A person born with any sort of colour doesn't have a choice in the matter. I would suggest sexual preferences, however, are a matter of individual choice."

He attacked "the type of homosexual who often leads a double life, often using false identities, [and] has casual pickups for the purpose of sex ". We don't know what the police said privately because all the documents surrounding the case have now been mysteriously "misplaced" .

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