Hate crimes unit investigates Littlejohn over gay police slur

Complaint against the controversial 'Sun' columnist and TV presenter as Robert Kilroy-Silk takes his programme elsewhere
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He is known for outspoken rants against anyone from asylum-seekers to traffic wardens. But this time Richard Littlejohn, the reactionary columnist and self-styled Mr Angry, may regret his choice of target for his invective: gay police officers.

Officers from Scotland Yard's special hate crimes unit are investigating a formal complaint brought by the Gay Police Association, which has had enough of the writer's homophobic comments. The GPA is particularly outraged by an article Mr Littlejohn penned for The Sun that referred to cottaging as a "career move" for gay police officers. These comments and other homophobic sentiments were published under the heading "Just a little light spanking, sarge" on 6 January. The GPA accuses Mr Littlejohn of stirring up hatred not only against gay police officers but against the gay community as a whole.

There is no specific law in Britain making it a criminal offence to stir up homophobic feeling. It is understood that the Met's Racial and Violent Crimes Task Force is examining existing laws to see if there are any grounds for prosecution. The GPA said it has also contacted the Commission for Racial Equality to make it aware of the article.

The catalyst for Mr Littlejohn's rant against gay police officers was a proposal by senior officers to introduce new quotas to ensure homosexuals and lesbians are properly represented in the police service. In his article, Mr Littlejohn directly accused Commander Brian Paddick, the highest profile openly gay police officer, of using his sexuality to gain promotion.

"You used to get nicked for cottaging. Now it's a career move. Commander Paddick, the man who turned Brixton into an open-air drugs den, has milked his homosexuality for all it's worth in his relentless assault on the greasy pole."

The columnist also lashed out at Inspector Paul Cahill, the chairman of the GPA. "Inspector Brian [sic] Cahill, 32-year-old chairman of the Gay Police Association, has been awarded the MBE. Good luck to him but what marks him out from hundreds of other inspectors other than his predilection for same-sex sex?"

The columnist also informed readers that he had "assumed all policewomen are lesbians anyway, unless provided with incontrovertible proof to the contrary".

This is not the first time that a columnist has found himself the subject of a police inquiry because of outspoken views. Last year, Taki Theodoracopoulos, who works for The Spectator, was investigated by the Met after referring to young black people as "black thugs, sons of black thugs and grandsons of black thugs".

Inspector Cahill accused Mr Littlejohn of being irresponsible and said he should consider his position. "Hate knows no boundaries and a good example of that is the Soho nail-bombing," he said.

"He [Littlejohn] has a position of responsibility and to date I've only seen an abuse of that position. If he continues to abuse that position then his TV [programme] should be reconsidered. I would be willing to respond to his views but he has not invited activists on to his show."

His GPA colleague Steve Deehan, who is writing to the Press Complaints Commission about the Littlejohn article, said that he was in discussions with the Met on how to regulate the publication of homophobic material.

"If you look at the comments and juxtapose racist terms, then that would be a criminal offence," he said.

Stonewall, the gay rights group, said Mr Littlejohn was "obsessed" with homosexuality and that Stonewall was supporting the GPA over its action.

"It would be interesting to know how often Richard Littlejohn mentions heterosexuality compared with homosexuality in his column," said Adrian Wardle, a spokesman for Stonewall. "He should consider his position when it's that sort of comment which means people get beaten up on the streets for being gay."

The Met confirmed that it was examining complaints which had been made about Mr Littlejohn's article.

"We have been made aware of concerns on both of these issues as a result of that we are in discussions with the Gay Police Association and Acpo [the Association of Chief Police Officers] regarding this type of issue and how police should respond to this," said a spokeswoman.

When contacted by this newspaper, a spokeswoman for Richard Littlejohn said that he was unavailable for comment. For once.

'Kilroy' show may be sold to rival channel

By Jonathan Thompson

Robert Kilroy-Silk may sell his talk show Kilroy to television channel Five when its contract with the BBC expires in July, insiders said last night.

Mr Kilroy-Silk, 61, who resigned as the presenter of the programme on Friday, owns the rights to the show and would be able to sell them to the highest bidder in six months' time.

The former MP announced he was stepping down as the show's host in a joint statement with the BBC, following controversial remarks made in his column in The Sunday Express in which he described Arabs as "suicide bombers, limb amputators and women repressors". As head of Kilroy Television Company Ltd, however, he will continue to be involved with the programme in an executive role.

Speculation surrounded what shape the future of the programme would take, with some suggesting it could oust Five's Terry and Gaby Show.

The BBC has vowed to screen the daily discussion programme until the end of its present series, with a number of guest presenters filling Mr Kilroy-Silk's role until the summer. The show will continue to be produced by the team at Kilroy Television, including the former host's daughter and nephew.

The corporation was remaining tight-lipped last night about possible hosts for the new-look Kilroy, but it is believed that a number of male presenters will be auditioned and screen-tested in pilot shows over the next two weeks. A female presenter has not been ruled out, but is thought unlikely, as Kilroy is to continue running head-to-head with ITV's Trisha on weekday mornings.

Insiders estimated that the earliest the programme could realistically be back on air, probably in shorter form, was three weeks. The BBC has as many as 20 hour-long editions of Kilroy in the can, on which it must cut its losses.

Mr Kilroy-Silk has become something of a cause célèbre for freedom of speech over the past two weeks, after his column was roundly criticised as racist. In the two weeks since it was published, however, the paper claims it has received some 50,000 phone calls in support of Mr Kilroy-Silk. The BBC has had more than 5,000 calls and emails on the subject, roughly three-to-one in Mr Kilroy-Silk's favour.

The presenter announced his resignation from the daily topical discussion show on Friday, after extensive talks with the BBC. It brought to an end the former MP's 17-year run as the programme's host.

Mr Kilroy-Silk said: "I believe it is my right to express my views, however uncomfortable they may be. I recognise the difficulties this has caused the BBC, and I believe my decision is the right way to resolve the situation."