Father Paul Newbery came out as gay 20 years ago. (Facebook/ Paul Newbery)
A gay Catholic priest in Liverpool has been left “petrified” after he was subjected to homophobic abuse in a “disgusting” hate crime.
Father Paul Newbery is a priest at Merseyside Open Community Church in Liverpool, which is part of the LGBT-inclusive United Liberal Catholic Church.
Newbery, who also works as a taxi driver, told the Liverpool Echo: “I was polishing my new minibus I use as a taxi driver when this man came over to me and started shouting about two people hiding behind my taxi the night before.
“He then started calling me a dirty faggot and said he would knock me up and down the street.
“I was trying to tell him that I didn’t know what he was talking about but he wouldn’t listen and carried on shouting homophobic slurs at me.”
Newbery came out as gay two decades ago, and said he was nervous when he first moved to Liverpool, fearing he would encounter homophobia.
In the last 20 years he has never experienced hatred, and found the city “welcoming”, but now he’s been left “petrified”.
The Catholic priest continued: “Since the attacks recently, I don’t feel safe going to bars on Concert Square. Which is a real shame as I’m sure there are some really great ones I would really like.
“Hatred isn’t my Liverpool and the place that I know and love.
“I don’t know what has changed but it needs to stop, it is not okay to attack people or shout homophobic slurs from across the street. It has never been okay and never will be. It’s disgusting.”
Police are treating the abuse of the gay Catholic priest as a hate crime
Father Paul Newbery has contacted the police, who have confirmed that they are treating the incident as a hate crime and are set to interview someone in connection with the abuse.
“This investigation is in its early stages and we’re due to speak to someone in connection with the incident,” detective chief inspector Gayle Rooney said in a statement.
“In the meantime, I want to reiterate my determination to investigate and prosecute all those who we suspect are responsible for targeting, threatening or assaulting people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
“Due to the language reportedly used, we’re treating this as a hate crime.
“We at Merseyside Police stand against hate crime in all its forms and will not tolerate people being targeted in this manner. If you saw or heard the incident, come forward and we will take action.”