A gay priest says he was subjected to vile homophobic abuse while cleaning the minibus he uses as a taxi outside his home.

Father Paul Newberry, 43, was polishing the black Mercedes-Benz vehicle in Liverpool on Thursday when a man approached him.

The ordained priest said the yob, said to be aged in his 50s, then began hurling slurs at him - including the word "f*****".

Police have confirmed they are treating the incident as a hate crime and a man is due to attend a station for a voluntary interview.

Father Paul 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.

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Father Paul Newberry
Police have confirmed they are treating the incident as a hate crime

"He then started calling me a dirty f***** 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.

"I called the police, who then came and said they were treating it as a hate crime."

DCI Gayle Rooney, of Merseyside Police, said: "This investigation is in its early stages and we're due to speak to someone in connection with the incident.

"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.

Kirkdale
The incident took place in the Kirkdale part of Liverpool

"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."

Father Paul came out as gay 20 years ago and said he was "petrified" when he first moved to Liverpool from Colchester.

But once in the city he said people were "so welcoming" and he had never had an issue until more recently.

He added: "I'm getting that way [petrified] again 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."

Anybody who witnessed the incident in Kirkdale or have any information are encouraged to contact Merseyside Police social media desk via Twitter @MerPolCC or Facebook Merseyside Police Contact Centre with reference 21000511168.