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Home Secretary Suella Braverman criticises Sussex police for 'policing pronouns'

"[Sussex Police] got it wrong by playing identity politics and denying biology," Braverman tweeted at the force.

2022-09-28

Words: Emily Maskell; pictures: Wiki

Sussex Police have issued an apology after being accused of "playing identity politics and denying biology” by Home Secretary Suella Braverman for its reporting on sexual offences committed by a transgender woman prior to her transition.

Some on Twitter condemned the force for referring to Dixon in the press release headline as a “woman convicted of historic offences against children in Sussex” as she transitioned after the crimes were committed. 

Sally Ann Dixon was jailed for 20 years having been convicted of 30 indecent assaults.

Sussex Police said that the sentencing for the crimes, against five girls and two boys that took place between 1989 to 1996, occurred at Lewes Crown Court on September 8 alongside the fact that the 58-year-old transitioned to female in 2004.

In response to the tweets criticising the headline, Sussex Police shared it does 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,” the now-deleted tweet added.

One Twitter user who said she was exercising her gender critical views was met with a response from Sussex Police that said she could familiarise herself with what is regarded as hate on its website, adding: “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.”

Responding to this now-deleted tweet, Home Secretary Suella Braverman intervened and tweeted the force should “focus on catching criminals not policing pronouns” and that "they’ve got it wrong by playing identity politics and denying biology".

Sussex Police then removed its prior tweets about the case and condemning gender critics before releasing a statement that read: "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."

"We recognise the rights of the public to express themselves freely within the boundaries of the law," the statement continued.

The force clarified its report and stated that the court heard that at the time of the offences, Dixon was living as a man: "The relevant offences were recorded as being committed by a male." 

Braverman thanked Sussex Police for their "swift apology [and] retraction," adding that "the best police officers focus on solving crimes and supporting victims. Not political correctness."

Prior to becoming home secretary in early September, Braverman had been under fire for a worrying speech at the Policy Exchange thinktank on August 10 where she claimed schools and teachers are “socially transitioning” children.

She added that it was her belief that LGBTQ+ education was not "age-appropriate" for children; her views were a chilling reminder of the sorts of opinions that led to the implementation of Section 28 – the now repealed legislation banning local authorities and schools from 'promoting homosexuality'.

Earlier this year, it was reported that, according to national police force reports, there was a 168 percent increase in the reporting of hate crimes based on sexual orientation from 2016-17 to 2021-22.

Amongst these statistics: homophobic hate crime reports in the UK have doubled while transphobic hate crime reports have tripled over the last five years. 

The Attitude September/October issue is out now.