A RAINBOW flag is being flown at Merseyside Police HQ to highlight International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT).

IDAHOBIT will take place on Thursday, May 17 and will mark 28 years since the World Health Organisation removed homosexuality from its official list of mental disorders.

Merseyside Police will fly the flag until Friday, May 18.

Assistant chief constable Julie Cooke and deputy police and crime commissioner councillor Emily Spurrell raised the flag at Merseyside Police headquarters in Canning Place today (Monday).

Ms Cooke said: "Flying the rainbow flag is a visible sign of our dedication to eradicating homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in Merseyside.

"This forms part of our larger commitment to tackling hate crime in all its forms and we want the message to be clear to victims and offenders that offences involving disability, race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity will not be tolerated by Merseyside Police.

"The force will be represented at the annual Navajo awards ceremony on May 17, an event the force has been involved in for a number of years.

"The Navajo Charter mark, which the force holds, is awarded in recognition of dedication to improve equality and celebrate diversity and is built into the foundations of the force’s Community First model."

The Police Commissioner, Jane Kennedy, is among those speaking at the Navajo awards.

Merseyside Police say it continues to encourage victims and witnesses of hate crime to report incidents so that detectives and specialist hate crime co-ordinators can continue to investigate each case and provide ongoing support as the case goes to court.

Cllr Spurrell said: "In a world where same sex relationships are still illegal in 72 countries, and many gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans people still live with oppression every day, the effect of lifting the rainbow flag and seeing it fly proudly over Merseyside Police headquarters should not be underestimated.

"It is an act of solidarity, of support and of comradeship. It also sends out a powerful message that Merseyside Police are committed to equality and diversity and, from the very top, recognise the needs of Merseyside’s LGBTIQ community and their own LGBTIQ staff.

"A hope it is also a sign to the community just how seriously Merseyside Police takes incidents of hate, and that they will take robust action against anyone who caught carrying out acts of hate.

"If, for any reason, there are any people who there who still does not feel comfortable contacting Merseyside Police directly, I would urge them to contact Stop Hate UK.

"Stop Hate are an independent charity who offer support and guidance 24/7 to anyone affected by hate."