Controversial former police chief Sir James Anderton, who called for the return of corporal punishment and said people with AIDS were ‘swirling in a human cesspit of their own making’, has died aged 89.
Sir James, dubbed ‘God’s copper’ for his strict Christian faith, was one of the country’s most well-known crime fighters after leading Greater Manchester Police (GMP) between 1975 and 1991.
While he launched crackdowns on pornography, late-night drinking and prostitution, his outspoken views often landed him in hot water.
There were calls for him to resign over the comments he made about gay people, drug users and prostitutes at the height of the AIDS crisis in the mid-1980s. He also wanted homosexuality to be outlawed.
However his job was saved by then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who brushed off calls for a public inquiry.
Sir James had also been criticised for saying he wanted to administer corporal punishment on criminals until they ‘beg for mercy’ or ‘repent of their sins.’
Sir James Anderton (pictured), dubbed ‘God’s copper’ for his strict Christian faith, was one of the country’s most well-known crime fighters after leading Greater Manchester Police (GMP) between 1975 and 1991. He has died aged 89.
The Queen (centre), pictured with the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, James Anderton (left) in March 1986
Sir James Anderton’s controversial remarks often led to calls for his resignation
Sir James Anderton believed he was being ‘used by God’ to restore morality through policing.
It was one of his many remarks that got him in hot water over the years as leader of the Greater Manchester Police, from 1975 to 1991.
Here are some of his most controversial comments.
- ‘God works in mysterious ways. Given my love of God and belief in Him and Jesus Christ, I have to accept that I may well be used by God in this way.’
- ‘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?’
- ‘Corporal punishment should be administered so that [criminals] actually beg for mercy. They should be punished until they repent of their sins. I’d thrash some criminals myself, most surely.’
- ‘The law of the land allows consenting adult homosexuals to engage in sexual practices which I think should be criminal offences. Sodomy between males is an abhorrent offence, condemned by the word of God, and ought to be against the criminal law.’
‘I’d thrash some criminals myself, most surely,’ he told one magazine.
He was heavily influenced by his faith and once claimed he was being ‘used by God’ to speak out on moral issues.
But he was accused by rights activists of paying ‘undue attention’ to the gay community.
The Guardian previously reported that he ‘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, 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.’
Despite his controversy, he was knighted in 1990 before enjoying a full retirement.
Former colleagues yesterday branded him a ‘great leader’ and ‘a force of nature’.
Sir James became a police officer in the 1950s before rising through the ranks at forces in Cheshire and Leicestershire. He was made the chief of GMP in 1975.
As part of his policy of ‘public accountability’, he introduced the ‘Community Contact Departments’, which helped build relationships between the police and the public.
He also launched the Tactical Aid Group, which was deployed to tackle public disorder.
His tenure saw high profile incidents such as the Moss Side riot of 1981, which saw 1,000 youths attack a local police station before rioting in the streets for two days.
The current chief of GMP constable Stephen Watson said Sir James had left a ‘lasting legacy in policing.’
He said: ‘During his fifteen year service as Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, James Anderton led the force through some of the most extensive periods of change in UK policing.
‘He was a public servant of significant stature who oversaw many innovative and important operational developments, leaving behind a lasting legacy in policing.
‘He was highly regarded by police officers and staff and is still well remembered within GMP after over twenty years of retirement.
‘On behalf of everyone at Greater Manchester Police I extend our sincere condolences to Mr Anderton’s family.’
Tributes have poured in for Sir James since the news of his passing.
Ian Campbell said: ‘Hearing sad news that my very first Chief Constable Sir Cyril James Anderton has passed.
‘He was the best I ever served under and I mourn his passing. RIP Sir, you were a force of nature and we won’t see your like again.’
Tributes have poured in for Sir James since the news of his passing. Pictured: Canon Eric Saxon, pictured welcoming the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, James Anderton (left), to his final service in 1982
Sir James was also criticised for saying he wanted to administer corporal punishment on criminals until they ‘beg for mercy’ or ‘repent of their sins.’ (Pictured: Sir James Anderton and Lord Mayor of Manchester Roy Walters in 2002)
Greater Manchester Police pay tribute to Sir James Anderton on social media, branding him a ‘public servant of significant stature’
Pete Jackson said: ‘Very sad to hear of Sir Cyril James Anderton passing away today. Condolences to his family. GMP Chief Constable 1976 to 1991.
‘A great leader & the only Chief Constable of GMP to command the respect of the entire force!’
Gordon Johnson said: ‘So sad to hear that Sir Cyril James Anderton has passed away earlier today.
‘The first and the best Chief Constable that I served under in @gmpolice. Thoughts and prayers are with his wife Joan and daughter Gill. RIP.’
Sir James is survived by his wife Joan and his daughter.