James Anderton was appointed Chief Constable of Greater Manchester in 1975 and remained there until 1991, despite his ongoing campaign against LGBT people.
Like many homophobes, Anderton claimed to be a God-fearing Christian. Indeed, he came to be nicknamed ‘God’s Copper’ – not so much because he had been a Methodist lay preacher but because he had claimed in a radio interview that, “I have to accept that I may well be used by God in this way.”
Doing God’s work included resurrecting an old Victorian law in order to charge gay men in one Manchester venue with ‘licentious dancing’. In this case, licentious dancing simply meant two men dancing together.
He also devoted large amounts of police resources to the surveillance of gay men. Journalist Beatrix Campbell claimed that:
“Anderton…encouraged his officers to stalk [Manchester’s] dank alleys and expose anyone caught in a clinch, while police motorboats with spotlights cruised for gay men around the canal’s locks and bridges.”
In 2011, Manchester historian Jeff Evans told the Manchester Evening News:
“I’ve interviewed retired officers who took part in police surveillance of public toilets, lying in the roof space watching men urinate for hours on end.”
Unsurprisingly then, the advent of AIDS afforded Anderton the opportunity to step up his bigotry even further. Speaking at a national seminar on how police should interact with people with AIDS, Anderton said:
“Everywhere I go I see evidence of people swirling around in the cesspool of their own making. Why do homosexuals freely engage in sodomy and other obnoxious sexual practices knowing the dangers involved?”
Whilst the comments brought understandable outrage and condemnation from most people, the Murdoch tabloid ‘The Sun’ applauded Anderton;
“Their defiling act of love is not only unnatural, in today’s world it is lethal…What Britain needs is more men like Anderton – and fewer gay terrorists holding the decent members of society to ransom.”
As calls for Anderton’s sacking grew, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher also threw her weight behind Anderton and blocked calls for a public enquiry.
But Anderton’s hideous homophobia was all to much for one person – his daughter, who came out as a lesbian shortly thereafter as Thatcher and Co. moved to impose the notorious Clause 28 on the country.