VOTE! Policing LGB&T Communities

Publish Date: 13/11/2012

This Thursday 15th November gives us all an opportunity to have a voice in how our communities are policed.  LGBT people in Greater Manchester have put questions to some of the candidates up for election

Sick and tired of homophobia, hate crime and a lack of support for LGB&T people when it comes to policing? Use your Vote on November 15th and help to change the future of policing in Greater Manchester.

Last week, candidates for Greater Manchester Police & Crime Commissioner put forward their case for how they could work in the interest of the LGB&T community if they were elected.

This came in a week when a police caution given by British Transport Police  to  the perpetrator of homophobic verbal  abuse of two gay men on a train from Blackpool to Manchester not only drew national media attention to homophobia but also to sentencing when compared to other crimes of a similar nature.

None of the candidates present at the LGB&T Hustings held last week at The Lesbian & Gay Foundation’s Community Resource Centre felt the caution was appropriate and used the opportunity to highlight how they would empower police and facilitate tougher sentences to those who subject our communities to hate.

The candidates answering questions were;

Matt Gallagher a Liberal Democrat and former police officer,who says he wants to make sure that the police spend more time talking directly with the communities they serve. He has committed to creating a volunteer "assistant Police and Crime Commissioner for LGBT+ issues" position1 to ensure that the needs of our communities are served.

Labour’s Tony Lloyd acknowledged that verbal homophobic abuse should be challenged and that cautioning someone is not setting a high enough standard in which to measure progress for the future.

Michael Winstanley who stands as a Conservative candidate wanted it to be known that the needs of victims of homophobia should be put first and that he would make sure the police do not ignore homophobic incidents and if elected he would ensure the policing plan for Greater Manchester was driven by the public.

Unfortunately the two other candidates Steven Woolfe from UK Independence Party and Roy Warren standing as an Independent candidate were unable to attend on the night.

However they both sent messages for the LGB&T community to think about. Roy could not attend due to illness but he strongly believes the role of PCC should not go to a politician and should remain independent.

Steven could not attend as he had family matters to take care of but wanted to assure the LGB&T community that if elected, he would maintain support for LGB&T issues and concerns.

Members of the LGB&T community were invited to address the candidates present and below is a brief selection of the questions asked and answers given.

Manchester is currently biding for the World Euro Games in 2015. Would the candidates support this?

Tony: We should have more events to promote diversity across Greater Manchester
Matt: Anything that helps build communities is good for Manchester.
Michael: The opportunity to promote Greater Manchester can lead to a better sense of community cohesion and be good for business.

How would candidates work with businesses to better support LGB&T people?

Tony: We have to work more with business to ensure a better structure to our work
Matt: Business can be subject to hate crimes too and they need a channel in which to talk to the police.
Michael: The PCC will be able to bring people together to create partnerships to make Manchester safer.

How would candidates encourage better reporting of LGB&T hate crimes?

Tony: If people see that homophobic hate crimes are not dealt with seriously enough they will not report them. We have to show we are serious about better protection for all victims of crime.
Matt: Police need to be better trained in diversity issues and if the public are not happy they need to be able to complain to someone that is something the new PCC can deal with.
Michael: We need to embrace technology to make it easier for people to report incidents and also keep them informed about what is going on with their case.

What about sentencing of homophobic hate crimes, is it strong enough?

Tony: The word ‘caution’ does give out the wrong signal, we do need to change the culture of the criminal system and put the victim’s needs first.
Matt: We have to remember that it isn’t just the police who suggest sentences for homophobic crimes it is also the Crown Prosecution Service and sometimes it can be challenging to overturn decisions made by the CPS. Victims must come first and be informed of any decisions which affect their case.
Michael: We have to send out a strong message that we won’t tolerate homophobia and as PCC we do have the mandate to change things.

Strategically what would candidates do to further support LGBT people?

Michael: This role is a public one and the successful candidate has to be accessible to the public.
Tony: You have to work with the community directly if you want to reduce crime.
Matt: Police need to make themselves available to the community to prevent crime.

How would the candidates prioritise community safety through projects like The LGF’s Village Angels?

Tony: Community safety is of paramount importance.
Matt: We need to reduce the fear of crime and constantly ask the public their views.
Michael: Zero tolerance on homophobia and swift justice for the victims are what is needed.

Above is  a summary of some of the topics covered in last week's LGB&T Hustings. If you want to make sure you have a say in how Greater Manchester Police work on your behalf remember to vote on November 15th.

For more information on the elections visit: http://www.greatermanchesterpccelection.org.uk/

If you live elsewhere and want to know who is standing to represent you visit: http://www.choosemypcc.org.uk/

1 Correction made after being highlighted through Twitter, 13:39 14/11/2012