A trainee police officer has been hospitalised after a suspected homophobic attack in Liverpool city centre.
James Parkes, 22, who was training with Merseyside Police, was out with three friends when he was attacked leaving a gay bar on Stanley Street at 10pm on Sunday night.
Four teenagers from the Kirkdale area, one aged 17, two aged 15 and one 14, have been arrested on suspicion of assault and are being questioned by detectives. About 13 youths are believed to have been involved in the attack, which left Mr Parkes severely injured. One of his friends was also punched in the face.
He was leaving Superstar Boudoir, one of the city's well-known gay bars, when he was set upon by the youths. Police said he suffered multiple fractures to his skull, a fractured cheekbone and a fractured eye socket, and was in a "critical" condition.
The attack comes just one week before the opening of Liverpool's annual gay festival, Homotopia. Stanley Street was cordoned off to allow officers to investigate the crime scene, and detectives will also be examining CCTV footage to establish what happened.
A Merseyside Police spokesman said: "The officer was with his partner, another man and woman when the incident took place. From the language used by the offenders towards the officer we believe it was a homophobic attack."