Content warning: References to homophobia and sexual violence

Partygate has shambled on this week - but outside the continuing scramble over who ate which cake and where, this has also been, as is increasingly the case, a big one for desperately bleak news.

We had a conviction in the case of Dr Gary Jenkins, who, if you're not familiar, was brutally murdered in Cardiff's Bute Park last summer. 

An openly bisexual man, Dr Jenkins had seemingly gone to the park to meet men, as he often did, when two adult men and a teenage girl attacked and robbed him, shouting homophobic abuse as they did.

He died of his injuries around two weeks later.

The court heard how the trio had specifically targeted Bute Park because of its nocturnal cruising scene, with one of Jenkins’ attackers referring to it as a “dirty park”.

READ MORE: Psychiatrist murder a ‘reminder of hate communities face for simply existing’

If the details of this attack were not chilling enough for LGBTQ people to read, a secondary blow came with the words of prosecutor Dafydd Enoch QC, who told the jury in his opening speech: “(Dr Jenkins’) sexual predilections would be his undoing.

“By engaging in that activity he rendered himself hopelessly vulnerable and he was an easy target as he wandered around Bute Park.

“By its nature the activity he engaged in was risky.”

These comments, grounded as they were in familiar prejudices about the sex lives of gay men and bisexual people - uniquely deviant, slutty, “dirty” - were rightly called out as homophobic and victim-blaming, but they also raised a larger question about the criminal justice system.

READ MORE: Gay serviceman ‘tortured’ at Welsh RAF base wants justice for others

I’ll preface this next little nugget with this: I’m by no means an expert in queer history and culture. I am merely a queer person, with queer friends, speaking from my own experience and broad knowledge.

So if what I say is a bit basic, that’s because unfortunately, I am myself a bit basic. Sorry!

It’s not the main point I want to discuss, but it does clearly bear repeating that the sexual and romantic lives of LGBTQ people are often different in character to those of the straights, and - not always, but frequently - necessarily so.

If you’ve grown up absorbing the message that your sexuality and/or gender identity is abnormal, a cause for embarrassment, “icky” - Section 28 was only lifted in 2003, remember - exploring and growing comfortable with that part of yourself can carry with it an extra weight. 

Even if you’re confident enough to be open about it - as I am, and as, by all accounts, Dr Gary Jenkins was - feelings can fluctuate. It’s a complicated thing.

The National Wales: Dr Gary Jenkins was a consultant psychiatrist. Dr Gary Jenkins was a consultant psychiatrist.

(This said, I didn't know Dr Jenkins - so please don't think I'm purporting to explain this evidently much-loved man or his life here.)

Anonymous, casual sex - asides from being, you know, fun - allows for pressure-free intimacy. In short: Human beings largely enjoy sex, sometimes without strings, and that’s profoundly normal and fine and healthy.

Ideally this fact would be taken for granted in the year of our Lord 2022, but we know that this isn’t the case. Our society has a weird relationship to sex in general, and we see this played out in the way that sex workers are still treated and spoken about.

READ MORE: LGBTQ+ History Month 2022: events and highlights in Wales

What does it mean, then, when the very person working to secure a conviction for a homophobic murder expresses sentiments rooted in the same prejudices that motivated the attack? Where do LGBTQ people go when they need help?

Who can we trust?

Because this really isn’t an isolated incident - Look at the police handling of the so-called "Grindr Killer" case

Stephen Port drugged, raped and killed four young men with GHB (commonly known as “the date-rape drug”) in London over the course of 16 months between 2014-2015.

The National Wales: Stephen Port killed four young gay men over the course of 16 months between 2014-2015.Stephen Port killed four young gay men over the course of 16 months between 2014-2015.

He’d met his victims on Grindr, a gay dating app, and had hired at least one - 23 year-old fashion student Anthony Walgate - as a sex worker.

Port didn’t make any particularly clever, elaborate effort to conceal his murders.

In Anthony Walgate’s case, he’d simply dumped the young man’s body in the street outside his house, and told police he’d just found him there. When police discovered he was lying, he told them that Mr Walgate had overdosed on drugs, and no further action was taken.

READ MORE: The remarkable life of Cranogwen who broke every convention of the Victorian age

Port’s other victims were also dumped just yards from his home, but once again, none of their deaths were treated as suspicious. It took pressure and extensive research from the victims’ families and friends for the police to investigate the deaths as linked. 

The mother of Anthony Walgate, Sarah Sak, maintains that the police's inaction stemmed from homophobia. She told Good Morning Britain recently: "Listening to all the officers, I realised whatever I did they wouldn't investigate it. 

"Nothing would have made any difference.

"They just weren't interested.”

As it later turned out, Port had previously drugged and raped at least seven other young men, sexually assaulting others. They came forward after hearing about his arrest.

An investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct found “systemic failings” by the Metropolitan Police, and an inquest jury ruled last month that those mistakes “probably” contributed to the deaths of Stephen Port’s victims. 

The National Wales: The Met Police has been under heightened scrutiny since the murder of Sarah Everard in March last year. (Picture: Can Pac Swire)The Met Police has been under heightened scrutiny since the murder of Sarah Everard in March last year. (Picture: Can Pac Swire)

In spite of this, no officers were sacked, and five of the seventeen disciplined for performance failings were later promoted.

This week also gave us a nauseating IOPC report documenting racist, misogynist and homophobic bullying and harassment by officers at London's Charing Cross police station. 

With this in mind, is it any wonder that an estimated 81 percent of LGBT people don’t feel comfortable reporting hate crimes they experience to the police? 

READ MORE: 

Mapped - The 'lost' LGBT history of Cardiff

‘Worrying’ delay to residential women's centre shows justice ‘isn’t working’

It’s a problem that keeps coming up - whether we’re considering homophobic attacks, violence against women, or hate crimes based on race, religion or ethnicity - harm goes undereported and unaddressed, because so many recognise that our current model of justice is more likely to hurt them than help them.

When we try to come up with solutions to violence, we turn first to the police and prison systems - at the moment, we're hearing about making misogyny a hate crime, for example.

But when these institutions are themselves found to be hotbeds of violence and prejudice, how can they possibly solve those problems in wider society?

It's a thorny question, but a vital one.

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