A former Manchester Councillor and Mayor will now be allowed to reclaim any confiscated medals he won during his service.
It comes after the Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced on Tuesday that those who were wrongly sacked – prior to a change in policy in 2000 that allowed previously-banned gay people to serve – will now be able to reclaim medals that were confiscated from them.
The MoD said it wanted to address a “historical wrong”.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson added that: “Those who serve in our Armed Forces deserve every recognition for their service [and] it was a very great injustice that this was denied to some members simply because of their sexuality.
“I hugely welcome the fact we can now address this historic wrong.”
Carl Austin-Behan OBE – who served on Manchester City Council from 2011-2018, and was the city’s first openly gay Lord Mayor in 2016-2017 – joined the Royal Air Force (RAF) in 1991 when he was 19 years old, and had a busy career that included saving a fellow pilot from a burning aircraft, which subsequently saw him commended for his actions in the Queen’s Honours list of 1991.
But in 1997, he was called in to see senior RAF personnel and the RAF police.
Speaking to Sky News about the moment dismissed from service, Mr Austin-Behan said: “When they asked if I was a homosexual I knew my life was about to change.
“I know I could’ve said ‘no’ but there comes a point in time when you have to be true to yourself [and] as they began to ask me again, I broke down crying before they could finish. Within a day, I lost the job that I had signed up to for 20 years, lost my home and lost all my friends.
“I felt like I’d let everyone down [and] my life just tumbled around me.
“Due to my exemplary service record, the awards I received, and the charity work I’d undertaken, they decided to suspend me from duty rather than send me to military prison, which was still an option [and] I was marched off camp within an hour, just enough time to be able to throw everything I had into boxes, which the RAF would deliver to an address of my choice.”
Mr Austin-Behan – who is currently the deputy lord lieutenant of Greater Manchester, and trustee of the LGBT+ veterans’ charity Fighting With Pride – took to Twitter to say the move was “welcomed” and that he hoped it would be the start of “a long-overdue support package for our LGBT veterans who were discharged due to their sexuality”.
Following yesterday’s groundbreaking move, veterans minister Johnny Mercer apologised for the historic policy, saying: “Where we have had discriminatory policies like this, I apologise [and] I hope today’s announcement will go some way – clearly it will never go all the way – to redressing the pain caused over the years by the policy of discriminating against the LGBT community.”
A statement on the gov.uk website reads: “Prior to 2000, a number of armed forces personnel were discharged from service on the basis of their sexuality.
“Some received convictions under specified legislation for homosexual behaviour that has now been de-criminalised, while others were discharged solely on the basis of their sexuality, without any conviction.
“In the course of their discharge, some personnel either forfeited medals directly, or were prevented from continuing to serve and thus denied the ability to regain medals that might previously have been forfeited for unrelated reasons.
“The MoD is committed to addressing this historical wrong and is introducing a policy which enables individuals to apply to have their medals restored.”
Under the scheme, affected former personnel can apply to have their case reviewed by the defence council, with successful applicants receiving a new medal from the MoD’s Medal Office, and relatives of affected ex-military members who have since died are also able to apply for a review.
You can find more information via the Ministry of Defence website here.
Liam Fray is playing a one-off charity gig to raise money for Manchester’s homeless community
Liam Fray is playing a one-off charity gig to raise money for Greater Manchester’s homeless population early next year.
Hosting just the second ‘Raise the Roof’ fundraising concert in over three years – the pandemic having put a pause on the initiative – the money generated will go towards providing a safe place to sleep to thousands in around the Manchester area.
The Middleton-born musician confirmed the date on Tuesday.
While Fray is currently the only name confirmed to be playing this year’s gig, his popularity in the city alone is sure to drive thousands to iconic Manchester venue for this great cause.
Most importantly, not only will all ticket sales go towards the A Bed Every Night drive, but so too will the proceeds from the re-release of the band’s debut album, St Jude, dropping on the same day as the gig.
The Mayor’s Charity has held a number of hugely successful campaigns already this year, including their annual 24 Run Against Homelessness as well as Mayor Andy Burnham‘s second night DJing at the one and only Warehouse Project.
Speaking in an official press release, Burnham spoke about the spoke about “the power of music to get people together and raise vital funds” for causes like combatting homelessness.
He went on to say that despite all the money already raised this year, “there’s more still to do and we know the cost of living crisis has started to impact on people’s housing”, adding: “We’re a musical city, so what better way to help those who need it but with a night with the incredible Liam Fray.”
Responding to Burnham’s thanks on Twitter, Fray had a simple message:
Over 4,000 unique individuals have been supported by A Bed Every Night since 2019, with more than 600 people now supplied with accommodation across the region who would otherwise be at risk of sleeping rough.
The Mayor’s campaign works with 21 different organisations across Greater Manchester helping provide a safe place to sleep to the homeless and those in needs on a regular basis. Wonderful stuff.
How to help in Manchester if you see someone homeless in the freezing cold
Whilst much has been done over the past few years to improve options for people who find themselves homeless in Greater Manchester, it’s still a huge problem – felt especially hard when the temperature drops.
The Met Office has forecast lows of -3 that will last across the weekend into early next week, whilst health officials have told people to put their heating on, despite rising costs. But some don’t even have the option to do that.
In the UK last year, 1,286 people died while homeless according to the Museum of Homelessness (MoH) Dying Homeless Project.
As a general rule, there are no legal protections for people sleeping rough in England. Most councils offer extra beds when temperatures are forecast to drop below 0ºC for three consecutive nights.
Fortunately here in Manchester, there is more support at hand.
What support does Manchester offer homeless people in freezing weather?
Manchester is the first major metropolitan area in the country to promise help as soon as the temperature drops below 0ºC.
Shelters are opened up in and around the city centre as soon as one night of freezing temperatures is forecast, and stay open until temperatures rise back up above zero, giving everyone a warm place to rest.
Accommodation varies from hostel ‘sit up’ spaces to an emergency shelter run by local charity Coffee4Craig for the council, where people are provided with sleeping bags, mats, armchairs and even a TV. And when space runs out in the hostels, people are given a hotel room for the night.
There is also the Mayor’s flagship A Bed Every Night scheme, which looks to offer a bed, hot meal and support for anyone sleeping rough in Greater Manchester at any time of year – regardless of the weather.
What can I do to help someone?
If you’re concerned about someone, you can contact your local authority via one of the numbers below.
Alternatively, you can use this tool to view the services on offer in your area.