Essex Police is being urged to formally apologise for its alleged treatment of LGBT people in past decades as they enforced "historic homophobic laws".

The force is speaking and listening to community groups amid the call, which comes in a letter to Chief Constable Ben-Julian Harrington from veteran human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.

His human rights organisation, the Peter Tatchell Foundation, is spearheading the "Apologise Now" campaign, urging Chief Constables across the UK to say sorry for past "anti-LGBT+ witch-hunts".

The campaign was backed by the beloved comedian and TV presenter Paul O’Grady before his death.

Mr Tatchell said: "I hope that a formal apology will be made to the LGBT+ community. It would help further improve LGBT+ trust and confidence in the police, which is what we all want.

"We do not expect an apology from the police for enforcing historic homophobic laws. What we are requesting is an apology for the often abusive and threatening way those laws were enforced - ways that would be deemed illegal and unacceptable today."

"Sir Mark Rowley has already said sorry on behalf of the Metropolitan Police and backed it up with a new LGBT+ plan for London and the appointment of LGBT+ Community Liaison Officers in every London borough," Mr Tatchell added.

"Similar apologies have also been made by the Chief Constables of Sussex and South Yorkshire.

"Their stance is backed by the Chief Constable of Northumbria, Vanessa Jardine, in her capacity as the lead on LGBT+ policy among chief constables across the UK. She has written to all Chief Constables supporting calls for them to say sorry.

"The appeal for Chief Constables to apologise is also endorsed by the National Police LGBT+ Network of serving LGBT+ officers."

Essex Police has confirmed it is aware of the letter, and is listening to community groups and people across the county before the force replies.

A spokesman commented: "We’re aware of the letter from Peter Tatchell which has been sent to forces all over the UK.

"As you’d expect, we’re talking to community groups and people from all our communities across the county about this and we’re listening to what they have to say before we reply.”