Officers should focus on reporting reality rather than protecting sex offenders from ‘hateful comments’
Just what is happening at Sussex police? Yesterday, the police force issued a grim press release: ‘Woman convicted of historic offences against children in Sussex’. But the woman in question was, in fact, not a woman at all: it was Sally Ann Dixon, born John Stephen Dixon, a paedophile who was jailed for abusing several children between the ages of six and 15.
When outraged women called out the police for this confusing statement, the response was swift:
‘Hi, Sussex police do not tolerate any hateful comments towards their gender identity regardless of crimes committed. This is irrelevant to the crime that has been committed and investigated’Sussex Police / Twitter
Whatever changes might have been made to Dixon’s body, Dixon has no gender recognition certificate and therefore remains legally male. Yet Sussex police prioritised protecting Dixon from ‘hateful comments’ rather than reporting reality.
The woman who received that stern reply from the police – Sybil she calls herself – wanted some answers. Thinking perhaps about the Maya Forstater case, she replied: ‘Sussex police, I am exercising my gender critical views, which are protected in law. Can you advise whether making such statements is a crime?’
It beggars belief why Sussex police became involved in this conversation – on Twitter of all places – but they did, and they continued throwing yet more light on their thinking:
‘Hi, you can familiarise yourself with what is regarding as hate on our website here. If you have gender critical views you wish to express this can be done on other platforms or your own page, not targeted at an individual’Sussex Police / Twitter
Go away, and don’t bother us? Or, watch out! it might not be a hate crime but it could be a ‘hate incident’ – something that Sussex Police think should be ‘recorded by the police’.
Only last weekend, reports emerged that that the Home Secretary Suella Braverman had written to police chiefs to tell them to prioritise ‘common-sense policing’. Braverman was likely to be concerned about police officers making symbolic gestures and virtue-signalling. If so, she is right to be alarmed: rainbow shoelaces do not catch burglars, and police officers in uniform dancing the Macarena at Pride risk becoming objects of ridicule rather than respect.
But this vignette from yesterday exposed something even more worrying. Police officers swear an oath to act with fairness, integrity, diligence and – crucially – impartiality. Now, it is hard to accept that Sussex police are impartial on the thorny issue of sex and gender. We should be concerned if the police are seen to take sides in any dispute, especially one so polarised as this. But perhaps not surprised, considering their past involvement with Stonewall. Only two years ago, the Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner trumpeted the inclusion of Sussex police in Stonewall’s Top 100 employers.
Lessons need to be learned. Facts need to be reported; pronouns do not. And women must not be blamed for the crimes of men. Very few sexual offences are the responsibility of women: fewer than two per cent, according to Ministry of Justice data from 2017.
After a furious intervention from Braverman, who accused Sussex police of playing ‘identity politics’, the force has, at least partly, backed down:
‘An earlier reply to a comment on Twitter was inconsistent with our usual style of engagement; we apologise for this and have removed the comment’.Sussex Police
But can we be sure that Sussex police – and indeed other police forces more focused on avoiding offence than doing their job – doesn’t make a similar mistake the next time a similar case happens?
Debbie Hayton is a teacher and journalist.