Police Scotland has been reported to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) after a senior officer implied the head of a domestic abuse charity was guilty of a ‘hate crime’ for upholding the reality of biological sex.
Nicola Murray, founder of a domestic abuse charity for pregnant women, was visited at home by police officers who wanted to ‘ascertain her thinking’ behind tweeting her concerns about remarks made by the transgender CEO of the Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre.
Mridul Wadhwa, a man who now lives as a woman, said last year that victims of sexual violence should expect to be “challenged on their prejudices” if they express “bigoted” views, and that women who uphold the reality of biological sex are enabling “fascists who want to eliminate trans people”.
Murray tweeted that the comments were “deeply concerning”, and said the charity would no longer be making referrals to the Centre, adding: “We are a women-only service run by women for women and will not be intimidated into changing our stance on this matter.”
She was “shocked and panicky” after the police turned up asking her to explain herself, despite acknowledging that no crime had been committed.
When asked to defend its actions, the force’s Assistant Chief Constable, Gary Ritchie, said: “Hate crime and discrimination of any kind is deplorable and entirely unacceptable.”
Women’s group Fair Play for Women complained that Richie’s response was “inaccurate and misleading” and asked the EHRC to investigate whether Police Scotland had breached its Public Sector Equality Duty under the Equality Act 2010 to “foster good relations between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not”.
‘Stuff of totalitarianism’
Nicola Williams, Director of Fair Play for Women, said: “It can be both necessary and lawful to sometimes treat people differently depending on what sex they were born. It’s a no-brainer that this would apply to a pregnancy-related service like Brodie’s Trust.
“The statement by Police Scotland vilifies the lawful use of female-only spaces and demonstrates a woeful lack of understanding of discrimination law and the needs of women and girls. They must now put the record straight.”
SNP MP Joanna Cherry likened Murray’s police visit to “the stuff of totalitarianism” while leading Scottish advocate Roddy Dunlop QC, warned: “We don’t have the thought police in this country. Or at least we shouldn’t.”
Police Scotland declined to comment on the complaint to the EHRC.
In 2019, former police officer Harry Miller was visited at his workplace by the police after they received a complaint about a ‘transphobic’ tweet, leaving Miller with the impression he could be prosecuted.
They told him to ‘check his thinking’, and despite the fact no crime had been committed, officers recorded the complaint as a non-crime hate incident.
A High Court judge ruled in early 2020 that the police visit had been an unlawful interference with Miller’s free speech, and late last year, the Court of Appeal ruled in Miller’s favour in a separate case challenging the legality of police guidance on recording ‘non-crime hate incidents’.
The judges said the guidance was unlawful and that recording perceived offences in a police database was likely to have had a serious “chilling effect” on public debate.