Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Stephen Port Trial: LGBT Advisory Group Statement

  1. We hope that the successful prosecution of Stephen Port for fours murders and multiple rape and sexual assaults gives some closure to the families of the victims and to the survivors.
  2. We recognise the hard work and professionalism of the homicide investigators led by Tim Duffield who has worked on these cases since October 2015. This has been a complex case with many victims. The Sapphire team has also provided excellent support to individuals who were brave enough to come forward with accounts of their experience of Port.
  3. The LGBT Advisory Group provides independent advice on LGBT-related policing issues. It was set up after the nail bomb in Old Compton Street in 1999, on the same basis as the advisory group established after the inquiry into the death of Stephen Lawrence. We previously conducted a review of LGBT-related homicides in 2007.
  4. We were called in to advise the investigation very rapidly upon the MPS determining a probable link between the four deaths prior to any charges. Our role is to act as a critical friend; identifying community concerns, advising on risks to community confidence, risks to community safety and on broader LGBT cultural and life experience issues, including community structures for witness reports and subsequent victim care.
  5. We have also advised on engagement, organising and contributing to a series of community meetings for the MPS to hear and address the concerns of the LGBT communities in Barking & Dagenham and also across London.
  6. This case is not just about the LGBT community. Social media has made it very easy for people to meet up anonymously. This presents many challenges to personal safety, and creates the potential for much wrongdoing that an individual finds hard to report.
  7. The case involved a large number of victims of sexual assault culminating in the deaths of four people. This highlights the need for victims of sexual violence to have a safe channel to report their experience. We recognise that this involves very personal and sensitive issues, such as sexuality and drug use. We need to lower the barriers to allow people to report.
  8. We strongly supported the MPS decision to voluntarily refer their handling of the four deaths to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). 
  9. The IPCC report may take some time to be delivered, and it is right it will deal with matters of individual conduct. We welcome the admission by the police that opportunities were missed. However in the meantime it is the view of the LGBT Advisory Group that the police must demonstrate without delay a commitment to addressing any systemic or cultural issues that may have contributed to these sad events.
  10. There are clearly issues to be addressed about the handling of the four cases. We will continue to work with the MPS to identify organisational learning. For example, this can include examining:
  • the processes for dealing with unexplained/suspicious deaths locally and with the Homicide Command.
  • whether better cultural understanding could have led to different decisions in the handling of these incidents
  • how to systematically embed the use of independent advice in these processes
  • reviewing other GBL-related deaths of LGBT+ people
These matters should be placed in the wider context of the consistency of the service that LGBT+ people experience from the MPS. It is our view that LGBT+ Londoners do not always receive service of the same equally high standard across all boroughs in London

We welcome other initiatives that will build trust and confidence for which we are taking a leading role. They are not linked to the homicides but are equally crucial. We have been assured that these will proceed without delay. They include:-
  • A revised guidance on Chemsex, upon which we will be facilitating community input.
  • A campaign to improve MPS organisational effectiveness in relation to LGBT- related hate incidents being developed by LGBT staff and community members. 

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