PCC Responses: The Good, The Fence Sitters and the Refuseniks!

GRARG soon came to realize: it’s a truth universally acknowledged that a PCC Candidate in need of your vote, would rather go around the planet 7 times than give a straightforward answer to the conflation of Sex and Gender in criminal statistics and the impact of this distortion on Women and understanding misogyny.

Sex not Gender

We specifically pushed candidates to confirm whether they would ensure that the sex of perpetrators is accurately recorded. In addition, we wanted reassurance that they agreed that victims of sexual assault or rape should be interviewed by an officer of the same sex. Only a minority of candidates we contacted (23%) would confirm that sex must be the priority over gender. 4% of candidates stated that gender was the preferred metric.

 

This left a majority of non-responders or ‘Fence-sitters’.  Amongst many of these, a new buzz phrase emerged, ‘biological gender’:

Volunteer Question: will you commit to ensuring the experimental recording of misogyny as a hate crime (due to start this autumn) will be on the basis of biological sex and not gender? Continuing to subsume the sex characteristic under ‘Gender’ and not having misogyny as a separate hate crime would mean unreliable statistics on offences motivated by prejudice based on biological sex on its own, or how this intersects with other characteristics. 

PCC Candidate Answer: Again I am not an expert in this subject but the common sense approach must be based on biological gender.

One Liberal Democrat PCC Candidate mentioned ‘Biological Gender’ 6 times.

Candidate Response Rate
The overall response rate to our questions was 50%. Yes, you read that right, 50% of candidates didn’t even bother to reply to our emails, calls or tweets.  It’s also worth noting that of those 50% that did respond to us, nearly half of those, we classified as ‘Fence Sitters’. More often than not, they avoided directly answering our three questions completely. Providing vague waffle about protecting women but not engaging on the specific points. ‘Fence sitter’ responses included:

  • “I too feel uncomfortable about the gender reassignment issue, which is a matter for Parliament.” 

This is not true Reader: Each force is free to record crimes for their own purposes of record-keeping by whatever Protected Characteristic they see fit. Further, each PCC exercises considerable executive power over the determination of local policing priorities, and how policing funds are spent in England and Wales. Despite the policing principle of operational independence, your PCC is also equipped with the Power to sack the Chief Constable of their local force.

  • The issues you raise are of concern and will be addressed by me should I be successful on 6th May. Having addressed them, I anticipate a publication of the approach to be adopted by Cheshire Constabulary so that the public can be informed of the policies. I trust you will find my response helpful.“

Reader: How could anyone be expected to find this response ‘helpful’? You never answer the question!

  • “I take sexual assault and crimes against women extremely seriously. As a husband and father of 3 girls and 4 granddaughters, this is an issue very close to my heart.
    I have included 3 of my recent press releases that may be of interest to you, in assessing my views.”
    Goes on to attack other candidates without offering any solutions

Then there were those who conflated Misogyny and Sex with Racism and George Floyd and a bit of #MeToo, and those who brazened it out by thinking that omitting misogyny was going to get past our beady eyes:

  • “Domestic abuse, sexual violence and racism are the crimes and behaviours akin to a malignant cancer that can destroy every aspect of a victim’s life.
    I regularly update my Police & Crime Plan and last year when it was clear the elections would be cancelled I did just that and referenced the changes that needed to take place following the revelation from the #Me too movement, the murder of George Floyd.”
  • “Following the tragic case of Sarah Everard I issued a formal statement that made clear my views on violence against women and the need for all men to take responsibility for presenting the right attitudes towards women. I don’t know if you saw the statement but you can find it on my PCC web-site. I don’t mention the issue of misogyny specifically but I have spoken in the past about my support for this to be classed as a hate crime. Clearly the police do not make the law but PCCs are able to lobby for changes.”

The ‘fence-sitter’ Winner?

  • “It’s good to hear that you are actively considering where to use your vote. My stance against violence against women and girls is absolutely clear and unequivocal, and as a White Ribbon Ambassador my commitment is strong, clear and active. My commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion is equally clear and based upon my personal values, which I rely upon in every decision I make. I stand firmly against discrimination and prejudice in all its forms. I’m firmly committed to protecting dignity and human rights of all of our residents.

Women as a priority: The Refuseniks (patronising, dismissive and callous responses)

As hilariously outrageous and incredible as some of these answers were, they were also deeply problematic, because they revealed that not only were women simply not a priority, they weren’t even a consideration for some PCC Candidates, despite the lip service. Even the supposedly harmless ones indicated so much blind indifference to the policing needs of women, it was hard to see how, in those counties, Women’s needs as victims, as survivors, as suspects, would be met as effectively as possible.

This failure to acknowledge and center Sex and other inequalities matters, because it shuts down the possibility of perceiving and acting on the drivers of misogyny and developing the best quality response to it. Ignorant or deliberately obtuse? You decide! 

  • I could have responded quite quickly and positively to the majority of your email, but I found myself perplexed by your question of the difference of ‘woman’ and ‘female’. Can I ask you the same question so that I can understand the context within which the question is framed? (Stewart Golton, Liberal Democrat, West Yorkshire)
  • “I don’t have time trying to reach 800K people to get into a debate about people choosing to change their genders” (Kevin Hurley, Independent, Surrey) 
  • “My personal belief is that all people are important and have equal protection under the law. I do not support isolating specified groups as different and outside of the mainstream. This may appear to give them special status but the downside is that it creates separateness. I do not think that this is how a healthy society should operate and hope to be taking positive steps to strengthen people and encourage them to take personal responsibility and contribute their skills.”(Sue Morris, Reform, Cambridgeshire)
  • “Volunteer: In what way can a man become a woman? And, therefore how do you define woman, if not as adult human female?
    Howard Kaye (Labour, Surrey): I will accept that your not going to be voting for me.”

    (That is not a typo, Reader. That is Howard’s grammatical skills on full display)
  • “I confess I am unclear why the distinction between sex and gender is important here or how this would work in practice. Why should a victim of a crime motivated by misogyny have to disclose to the police whether she is trans; there may be no telling whether the perpetrator knows or cares whether the victim is trans, though if they do then we may be talking about a transphobic hate crime too. I would have to look further into the issue you raise regarding the collection of statistics, but it seems that not recording gender identity would itself lead to defective statistics, and that routinely doubting people when they tell you what their gender is, would be offensive and not just to trans people, so again I am not clear how this is meant to work.” (Joe Otten, Liberal Democrat, South Yorkshire)
  • “Thank you for your informative and passionate message. I share that passion. I do not have time to answer every point. I can say I investigated the Suzy Lamplugh disappearance/murder.” Goes on to not answer questions of recording criminal offences by biological sex, and instead rants on about arresting “yobs” and “rebuilding the police in Iraq and Afghanistan” (Kevin Hurley, again).
  • If the question is one of fear of sexual assault, what would you suggest should be the response to a person who objects to a person of the same sex/gender searching them because they are gay? (Stewart Golton, Liberal Democrat, West Yorkshire, again)

We end with the downright bizzare, one from a QC, no less: 

  • “Above all, I would wish to help change [..] the ways in which we are policed, with the following aim. That: all women, both those assigned female at birth and those who self-identify as female later in life; and all non-binary people and people who self-define as LGBTQIA+ feel safe at home, and therefore feel confident to report domestic abuse should it occur feel safe in our streets, to dress in clothing which makes them feel good about themselves and that all citizens should be policed with respect, and taken seriously, whenever they become victims of crime. May the 6th, be with us and May the Force be with us!” (Stuart Jackson, Green Party, Devon and Cornwall)
  • “My present theory – and it is only a theory which I would alter if new facts came to light – is that since the contraceptive pill became widely used from around 1968 and also because of the extraordinary growth in the use of hormones in the agricultural industry, hormones have entered the aquifers and subsequently into drinking water and that young people, going through puberty, genuinely are confused about their sexuality. This, I think should be investigated. But, as I say, I am a live and let live kind of person.” (Julian Malins Q.C., Reform Party, Wiltshire)

Amidst the despair came the few responses that restored our faith in humanity.

The Common Sense Independent:

  • “Yes sex is a lot more useful than gender in terms of incidence and prevalence of illnesses in medicine and that seems likely in crime and safety issues as well.It’s also a lot less controversial

The Thoughtful Conservative:

  • The issue here is that there is inconsistency between forces and that means different treatment depending on geography which can’t be right. It is however understandable though not right that self-identification is used as that is the least confrontational approach to take. I would also ask for birth sex.
    I know that there are fervent voices campaigning for self-identification to be the only criteria. I do not hold with that and certainly not in the context of a safeguarding situation.

    Regarding a definition of a woman – an adult female human being works for me. Oxford English Dictionary.
    Regarding misogyny generally – I have no time for it.”

The Brave PCC Candidate battling Gender Extremism within Party Ranks

  • “Women’s sex-based rights need to continue to be protected, and sex should remain a protected characteristic. The human rights of trans-people should also be protected, but where there is a clash of rights between these and women’s sex-based rights, a third way has to be found (probably involving separate gender-neutral spaces) so that the rights of one group do not cancel out those of another. This needs to apply to prisons, refuges and public changing rooms, and similar single-sex spaces.”)

The Sensible Liberal Democrat:

  • Your 13th paragraph starting ‘ Defining misogyny by “Sex”’ summarises very well the way in which we need to move forward and I am very keen that: serial stalkers and domestic abusers of women are prioritised and proactively identified, assessed and managed by Police, probation and other relevant agencies.Officers should have full training in understanding how to properly protect vulnerable female victims. Women should feel totally supported at every stage of any investigation with female officers used in any intimate situations. Baroness Williams’s announcement that police forces will record misogyny as a hate crime from this autumn is a step forward and needs to be backed up on the ground. If elected I would welcome the opportunity to talk further on this issue.”

The Criminologist Labour Candidate:

  • In particular I am concerned about very low levels of under-reporting and under-recording of sexual violence committed by men against women, of domestic abuse and significant levels of verbal abuse, intimidation and threat experienced by women in their everyday lives at the hands of men. This needs to be acknowledged and we need to make sure we have accurate data on the forms, patterning and trends in these experiences.


We needed these sane views, expressed across all political party lines, to remind us that the World hadn’t yet gone utterly insane, for in truth the statistics at the end of the #AskYourPCC Campaign are truly damning:

Surely, it would be within these PCC Candidate’s own and wider society’s interest, as well as the Women whose voices these PCC’s pledge to champion, to tackle 
the root causes and drivers of misogynistic offences such as domestic violence & sexual assault, which the UN acknowledges as detrimental not only on the lives & health of women, but has “significant socio-economic implications for individuals, families, communities and society?”

And what better way to begin this mammoth task than to collate accurate base data, on Sex, with which PCC’s can use to make an evidenced based approach for setting Policing priorities of their respective forces? Or Commission funding of female only specialists’ services for victims of male violence? Or ensure the police officers under their command spark up positive intervention and public awareness campaigns in this area, like they do for LGBT campaigns?

The facts are clear: we cannot fight VAWG if we’re not clear what women and girls are. It will also be difficult to take appropriate steps to combat VAWG if we don’t know who the overwhelming majority of perpetrators are. 

In the words of Dr. Kath Murray of Edinburgh-based policy analysts Murray, Blackburn and Mackenzie, “Recording and presenting violent and sexual offences committed by male as ‘female’ distorts our understanding of the nature of offending by women and men,” she said. “It obscures whether changes shown in statistics are due to real changes or only to changes in recording. In extremis, it may lead to the development of policies and projects based on false information.” https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/rape-suspects-can-choose-to-self-identify-as-female-vfl678tg6 

Women have a lot of work to do! May 6th is just a start to reminding our Political Elites, starting with our PCC Candidates, “If You Don’t Respect My Sex, Don’t Expect my “X”.

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