Letter: Gays not warned

Sir: While the police deserve praise for their liaison with the lesbian and gay community since the Soho bombing, their failure to forewarn the homosexual public that gay venues could be attacked was a grave error of judgement.

A week before the bomb, police suspected that Old Compton Street might be a target. Accordingly, officers alerted some gay businesses and organisations.

This alert was, unfortunately, badly executed. The gay rights group, Stonewall, was posted a police warning dated 27 April, but this letter did not arrive until 30 April (the day of the bombing). Since the police had serious concerns about the gay community being attacked, why was this warning not phoned or faxed to Stonewall, and to other key gay rights organisations?

It was also a mistake for the police not to use their own community consultation structures to alert the most obvious and important gay groups: those that are involved in police liaison through the London Lesbian & Gay Policing Initiative (LLGPI). None of these organisations received any warning.

The most serious police misjudgement was, by far, the decision to warn some gay bars, but not the wider gay public. Because the police did not issue a public alert about the possibility of gay venues being bombed, most homosexuals did not take the threat seriously. They heard Sir Paul Condon and Jack Straw suggesting an exclusively racist motive for the bombings, and assumed that the gay community was not at risk.

I put it to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner that he should have gone on national television on 27 April to advise the gay community that it was a potential target, and announce publicly that Old Compton Street and other gay districts were under police surveillance. This might have deterred the bomber.

PETER TATCHELL

OutRage!

London SW14

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