Letting criminals self-identify gender ‘putting women at risk’ The Times 14.03.19

The original article is here.

Male sex offenders can skew crime statistics and put women at risk by claiming to be female when arrested, it has emerged.

Humza Yousaf, the justice secretary, confirmed in parliament yesterday that criminal incidents are tracked according the self-identified gender of victims, witnesses and suspects. It prompted concerns that Scotland is introducing “self-identification through the back door” by allowing police and courts to record crimes according to the gender suspects feel they are.

Politicians, experts and women’s groups have warned that this could distort crime statistics and result in offenders who are male-bodied being placed in female-only refuges, exposing other inmates to danger and upset.

The Scottish government is seeking to reform the Gender Recognition Act to allow self-identification of gender without a medical diagnosis.

“Police Scotland require no evidence or certification as proof of gender identity other than a person’s self-declaration unless . . . it’s pertinent to any criminal investigation with which they are linked and it is evidentially critical that Police Scotland legally require this proof,” Mr Yousaf, 33, said.

Joan McAlpine, a fellow SNP MSP, had raised concerns that sexual offences are disproportionately perpetrated by biological men and asked whether self-identification would therefore lead to a “misleading” rise in the number of women recorded as sex-offenders. Official statistics show that 1,007 men were convicted for sexual crimes from 2017 to 2018, compared with 46 women.

Ms McAlpine, 57, said: “Aside from the statistical corruption, I cannot be the only woman who finds it deeply offensive that male sexual violence can ever be badged as a female crime.

“The Crown Prosecution Service in England and Wales take a similar approach [to the Scottish government] — it’s another example of self-identification being introduced by the back door in response to publicly-funded lobby groups.”

She highlighted the case of Katie Dolatowski, 18, a transgender sex offender who preyed on girls in public toilets in Fife and was housed in women-only accommodation after being convicted. Ms McAlpine said the policy meant Dolatowski was “recorded as a woman, when this person doesn’t even have a gender recognition certificate and is therefore legally male”.

Susan Smith of the feminist group For Women Scotland said: “We should never, ever find ourselves in a position where people who are legally and biologically male are being treated as female under any of our systems. It runs completely counter to UK law and all kinds of safeguarding policies.”

Richard Garside, director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, described the policy as “completely absurd”.

“Women who end up in custody are individuals who’ve often experienced quite grotesque and traumatic male violence so being asked to share their places of safety and refuge with individuals who they not unreasonably consider to be male and a threat to them — regardless of whether they are or not — is deeply problematic,” he said.

“It doesn’t mean trans-identifying males don’t need access to good quality services — and the fact they’re lacking is another scandal — but you don’t resolve it by asking women to make way for them.”

Kath Murray, a criminologist at the University of Edinburgh, who is part of Murray Blackburn Mackenzie, a policy analysis group in Edinburgh, said: “The introduction of unregulated self-identification principles into the criminal justice system deserves proper democratic debate and oversight.”

Police Scotland said that it records people’s sex in a binary way and, “where someone does not identify as male or female i.e. non-binary, gender fluid or a-gendered for instance, we would ask how they chose to identify when applying for a passport or driver’s licence”.