Civil Liberties
Inquests & Public Inquiries

Public Inquiry needed after report highlights ‘institutional racism, sexism and homophobia’ in Metropolitan Police

Victims of Stephen Port

Dr Neil Hudgell

Executive Chairman

8 min read time
21 Mar 2023

Lawyers who represent the families of four young gay men murdered by serial killer Stephen Port today said a Public Inquiry must be held into the ‘frighteningly appalling standards’ of the Metropolitan Police after the latest damning report into its policing.

It comes as The Baroness Casey Review, which has investigated standards of behaviour and internal culture at the force, today said it had found institutional racism, sexism and homophobia in the Met.

It also highlighted internal bullying and discrimination, and its continued reluctance to be transparent and failure to ‘embrace or learn from its mistakes’.

The review highlights the cases of Anthony Walgate, Gabriel Kovari, Daniel Whitworth and Jack Taylor, all victims of Port, whose families have always alleged that police prejudice played a part in officers’ failure to listen to concerns, resulting in missed opportunities to catch the killer.

Before, during and following an inquest into their deaths, the families and friends of all four men, and members of the LGBTQ+ community, stated their belief that homophobia, discrimination and assumptions about lifestyles played a part in the failings in the initial investigations.

A jury subsequently found that ‘fundamental failings’ – including failing to carry out basic lines of enquiry and not sending evidence for forensic testing – by the Met ‘probably’ contributed to the deaths. Due to a legal ruling by the Coroner, the inquest jury were restricted from offering a view on alleged homophobia.

‘Institutional defensiveness’

Since then, Baroness Casey said the forces had ‘closed rank’ on the issue, and that senior figures had ‘misconstrued’ the Coroner’s ruling, or at worst demonstrated ‘institutional defensiveness’ around the issue.

She also said her Review heard evidence that preventing the jury from giving a view on prejudice had been a ‘key goal’ of lawyers acting on behalf of the Met, which was ‘unwilling to consider if there had been any homophobia.’

She highlighted statements made to the media since – including from former Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick – which wrongly suggested the Coroner had ruled out homophobia, when she had in fact made no comment on prejudice or homophobia, whether there was evidence of it, or whether it played a role in the investigation.

Baroness Casey said: “The Met has publicly rejected both any suggestion that officers acted in a way that would be considered homophobic, and that the Met itself is institutionally homophobic, instead focusing solely on the technical investigative failings.

“In any public body, but especially one which relies upon community trust and public consent, the Review would expect to see evidence of a culture where there is openness to internally interrogate and assess the role prejudice, including assumptions and misinformed stereotypes, may play internally.

“An absence of this raises concerns about that institution’s ability to tackle homophobia where it exists.

“Subsequent calls for a public inquiry into the four deaths, or an examination of institutional homophobia in the Met, have been batted away using the Coroner’s instruction or, more recently, by suggesting that since this Review is taking place an inquiry is unnecessary.

“The former Commissioner’s comments were, at best, a misconstrual of the Coroner’s instruction. At worst, they demonstrate an institutional defensiveness.”

Since hearing the evidence at the inquest, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) have confirmed they are reinvestigating the conduct of the officers involved in the initial investigations.

Baroness Casey said that, as a result of this ongoing investigation, her Review was unable to publicly set out its view on whether homophobia played a role in the investigation itself, and for that reason had focused on the Met’s response to the accusations of homophobia, how it has handled this, and the impact of this on the families of the four victims and the LGBTQ+ community.

The review concluded that there is ‘deep seated homophobia’ within the Met.

She added: “Multiple people, including serving officers, have informed the Review that they believe this refusal to engage on the topic of homophobia is down to a fear that the public will then see all Met officers as homophobic, and that Met officers will feel unsupported by the leadership, rather than because the Met have thoroughly interrogated whether homophobia exists within its ranks.”

Lawyers says Public Inquiry needed

Solicitor Neil Hudgell, of Hudgell Solicitors, represented the families of Stephen Port’s victims at inquest and in civil claims against the Met Police, and said: “This review cannot make it any clearer that the Met Police have failed to engage meaningfully with regard to investigations into whether homophobia exists within its ranks, to the point that Baroness Casey concludes it has ‘closed ranks’.

“This is a force which has been exposed for its frighteningly appalling standards and culture in recent times, particularly with regards to treatment of women and the LGBTQ+ community, and quite understandably, the public has very little faith left in it.

“When it came to the inquest into the deaths of the four young men killed by Stephen Port, the Met went to extraordinary heights to ensure the matter of prejudice in the force was off the table for the jury to consider, and since then officials have been asserting a false narrative that there was no evidence of it.

“The families we represent have been able to give their evidence around homophobia to Baroness Casey as part of this review, and we thank her for listening to their concerns, and we are pleased that she has identified the force’s unwillingness to be transparent over this issue.

“Given Baroness Casey’s finding of institutional racism, sexism and homophobia in the Met, the widespread bullying and discrimination within the organisation, the ever-declining trust of the public, and the force’s lack of accountability and transparency, there must now be a Public Inquiry in which senior figures are called to answer questions.

“The pace of change clearly cannot be left to the Met themselves. Before they can effect change, they need to recognise their own shortcomings, which until recently under the new commissioner, they have remained unwilling or unable to do.

“The Government must step in and oversee proper change if public faith in this force is ever to be restored.”

Reacting to the report, Jack Taylor’s sisters Donna and Jenny, said: “This report has again highlighted the toxic culture across the Met Police, and yet still nothing is being done within the force to change things.

“Someone needs to take responsibility for tackling issues such as homophobia, someone needs to own it. Not one person has.  We still feel that if Jack had been a girl the whole situation would have been dealt with differently from the start.

“You can’t put it right and change the culture if you don’t know what’s going wrong, why it’s going wrong, or fail to fully investigate the root of the problems. That is why there must now be a Public Inquiry into how and why this force is failing people so badly.”

Sarah Sak, mother of Anthony Walgate, Port’s first victim, thanked Baroness Casey for her report and said: “We now have various reports, but now we now need actions rather than words. The investigation failures following the death of Anthony were underpinned by homophobic assumptions.

“The Met needs to acknowledge the issues and do something about them or we will have 300 pages of wasted paper. This has not yet happened because the Met still continues to deny homophobia.”

Baroness Casey’s review found:

  • There is institutional racism, sexism and homophobia in the Met
  • There are systemic and fundamental problems in how the Met is run
  • The Met has not managed the integrity of its own police service
  • The Met’s new leadership represent a welcome change of tone and approach. However, deep seated cultures need to be tackled in order for change to be sustained
  • Londoners have been put last
  • London’s women and children have been left even further behind
  • The Met lacks accountability and transparency
  • Discrimination is tolerated, not dealt with and has become baked into the system
  • The Met is in danger of losing its way – consent is broken

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Public Inquiry needed after report highlights ‘institutional racism, sexism and homophobia’ in Metropolitan Police

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