The Home Secretary has accused a police force of “playing identity politics and denying biology”, after it said it would not tolerate hateful comments about the gender identity of a transgender woman who sexually abused children years before transitioning.
Suella Braverman said Sussex Police should “focus on catching criminals not policing pronouns” after the force said it would not tolerate “hateful comments” about the perpetrator’s gender identity.
Sally Ann Dixon, of Swanmore Avenue, Havant, Hants, was jailed for 20 years at Lewes Crown Court on September 8 after being convicted of 30 indecent assaults, Sussex Police said.
The force said the crimes, against five girls and two boys, took place between 1989 to 1996, when Dixon was known as John Stephen Dixon.
The 58-year-old later transitioned to female in 2004, it added.
Some people on Twitter objected to the force referring to Dixon in the headline of its press release as a “Woman convicted of historic offences against children in Sussex”.
Responding to the remarks, Sussex Police tweeted that 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,” it added.
In response, Ms Braverman tweeted: “@Sussex_police have done well to put a dangerous criminal behind bars.
“But they’ve got it wrong by playing identity politics and denying biology. Focus on catching criminals not policing pronouns.”
Karen Ingala Smith, who founded Femicide Census, an organisation which provides information on women who have been killed by men in the UK, also responded to the force’s comments.
She tweeted: “The sex of the perpetrator certainly is not irrelevant in crimes of sexual violence against children, for example rates of perpetration differ hugely by sex.
“Moreover, if crimes committed by males are recorded as crimes by females then policy based on crime data will be hopeless.”
Frances Crook, former chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, now co-convenor of the Commission on Political Power, said 15,000 men are in prison convicted of sex crimes, compared to around 100 women.
She said allocating even a small number of male crimes to women would “skew the figures”.
She tweeted: “Hi @sussex_police can you tell us if this crime was counted as being committed by a man or a woman?
“He was male when he committed the offences.
“Men commit an overwhelming majority of sex/violent crimes and just a few male crimes allocated to women would skew the figures.”
Responding to one Twitter user who said she was exercising her gender critical views, Sussex Police 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.”
The direction prompted SNP MP Joanna Cherry to tweet at the force: “I think you could do with familiarising yourselves with the right to #FreeSpeech under #ECHR & the #HumanRightsAct & the protection for gender critical beliefs afforded under the Equality Act.
“You have no locus to compel women’s speech.”
Sussex Police have been asked how they recorded the crimes, and contacted for further comment.
Dixon, who will be subject to a sexual harm prevention order indefinitely, was also found not guilty of four indecent assaults.
Detective Constable Amy Pooley of the Sussex Police complex abuse unit, said: “Dixon came to know these vulnerable young children successively through family connections, and used that trusted access to systematically abuse each of them for sexual gratification, in some cases for several months at a time.
“Only when one of the victims eventually came to us in 2019 was the terrible and distressing nature of Dixon’s offending over many years finally uncovered.
“As one victim escaped this predatory interest, another would take their place, but sometimes some victims would be offended against simultaneously.
“This case shows again that we will always follow up such reports, no matter how long ago the events are said to have happened, to support victims and to see if we can achieve justice for them wherever the evidence justifies that.”