What Does The Following Tell Us?

1. The Angiolini Report on how Wayne Couzens became – and remained – a police officer, despite numerous reports of criminal behaviour & other red flags, has been published – https://iipcv-prod.s3.eu-west-2.amazonaws.com/E02740018_Angiolini-Inquiry.pdf

There is much of interest in its 316 pages, not least the following:  Couzens had a long history of sexual offending, “a predilection for extreme pornography and a vile sexualised expression of his sense of humour”. Despite this and many opportunities to investigate him, no action was taken and the Metropolitan Police admitted in 2022 that faced with a similar candidate they would have made the same hiring decision.

The Foreword states: “…wider debates have raged about public trust and confidence in the police and women’s safety in public places. Neither of these problems have been resolved. In fact, public trust and confidence in policing has deteriorated further. It also remains the case that women in public spaces are at risk from those men who choose to predate upon them.” (emphasis added)

The Report hopes that those in authority in all police forces (not just the Met) will read the Report.

2. The issues around the hiring and vetting of police officers do not just relate to exceptionally awful cases such as David Carrick and Wayne Couzens. See, for instance, Jeff Mitchell: a police officer convicted of kidnap, 10 counts of rape and 3 counts of rape of a child under 13 –  https://www.hamhigh.co.uk/news/24134622.met-police-officer-convicted-kidnap-rape-rape-child/. Like Couzens there was an earlier opportunity to catch him, which was missed. These are not isolated rare cases. Nor are they limited to the Met.

3. The Angiolini Report comes 11 months after the Casey Report into the Met, also commissioned after the Everard murder. It found that the Met had failed and was failing women, among many other serious criticisms. One will suffice: “The Met’s VAWG strategy rings hollow since its claim to be prioritising ‘serious violence’ has really not included the crimes that most affect women and girls. In practice, this has meant it has not been taken as seriously in terms of resourcing and prioritisation.

4. Earlier last month there was the HMIC Report on the Met’s handling of child sexual exploitation, described as ineffective and leaving children – overwhelmingly girls – vulnerable to sexual exploitation. This was not the first such report. In 2016 there had been a report on the same topic, described as “the most severely critical that HMIC has published about any force, on any subject, ever.” Despite that, in 2023 Casey described its handling of such cases as having “major inadequacies”. The position has not improved a year later. https://hmicfrs.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/news/news-feed/metropolitan-police-leaving-vulnerable-children-at-risk-of-exploitation/.

5. Yesterday in Parliament the debate for International Women’s Day was brought forward because of next week’s Budget. Jess Phillips MP read out the names of the 98 women murdered in the UK by a man in 2023. Their names are collected by the Femicide Census: on average since the end of 2009, 140 women have been killed by men every year. That’s an average of two women dead at the hands of a man, every 5 days. Most occur in a domestic setting. 

So it’s not just “public spaces” then.

6. Staffordshire Police have done some “hate crime” training in which they were told that “Women who take measures to protect themselves against unfamiliar men are subject to flawed unconscious bias and, therefore, similar to racists.

Memo to Staffs Police: please read the Angiolini Report. Teaching the police this puts women and girls at risk and puts the police on the side of those who “choose to predate on them.

7. The Angiolini Report makes a number of recommendations, some of them relating to how non-contact sexual offences, such as indecent exposure, should be taken seriously by the police and the criminal justice system. It says that: “Ministers should launch a public campaign to raise awareness about the criminality of any type of indecent exposure.” 

8. Diana Johnson MP raised in Parliament yesterday the case of her constituent, Libby Squire, murdered by a man with a history of such offending. She was interviewed by the Today programme last March (after Couzens was convicted on three counts of indecent exposure), as was Wera Hobhouse MP, who had successfully piloted through Parliament a Bill banning upskirting. 3 women who had been the victims of indecent exposure were also interviewed. (1)

The three women all said their priority was to get away to somewhere safe. This is not an option available to women in prisons housing male prisoners claiming a female gender, something the Scottish Prison Service might like to consider as it implements a policy which allows men identifying as women to be housed in female only jails in certain circumstances. Will it take the Angiolini Report into account in making its decisions?

9. In that interview Diana Johnson said “the male body can be used to intimidate, as an act of violence against women and girls”. Wera Hobhouse wanted a complete culture change: “The traumatising effect that any of these offences have on women has been completely underestimated…. It’s a proper offence. It leads to ultimately the feeling in women that they’re very vulnerable, that they’re not being listened to,… that what they feel is a proper attack on them, their freedom, their liberty, their way of life is not seen as such.”

Dare one hope that there might be some joined up thinking – not just by Ministers or the police or MPs but by all organisations – about the consequences of policies or actions enabling men to have access to women’s spaces?

10. Abuse of women MPs has become worse and is driving women away from Parliament. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/misogyny-in-westminster-is-driving-women-out-of-politics-mps-warn-q0wf9b96q

The irony is that the more women you get, the more it triggers some men who whilst they can blot out of their ears a couple of women, somehow it feels like an assault on them to actually have to listen to a number of women in authority talking confidently, and they then do a backlash. So really it’s part of fighting back against the backlash that comes when you make progress …” 

Not just In Westminster.

11. Last month we also learnt why it had taken the Scottish authorities so long to arrest Iain Packer, the murderer of Emma Caldwell. They had ignored numerous reports made by other women who had been subjected to attacks by him.

It’s not just women MPs who are not listened to.

12. Thames Valley Police say that the law requires them to record the crimes committed by Scarlet Blake, a man who claims to have a female gender but who does not have a GRC – the murder of a man and the killing and dissection of a cat – as crimes committed by a woman. Scarlet Blake has been detained in a man’s prison. The Thames Valley Police Commissioner has cited Annex L to Code C of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 as requiring this. But this Annex is headed “Establishing gender of persons for the purpose of searching and certain other procedures”. It does not require what the police say it requires. In law Scarlet Blake is a man. See here for a helpful analysis of the effect of incorrect recording of the offenders’ sex on crime statistics.

13. In the by-election in Rochdale (a town usually in the news either for grooming gangs or because of the personal misconduct of its MPs), the winner is George Galloway, a man who said that you don’t need consent for every “insertion” (his words) – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-19323783 – because a lack of consent is merely bad sexual etiquette not rape. This was criticised by the Charity Rape Crisis: “Sex without consent is rape. Mr Galloway’s description of such sexual violence as ‘really bad manners’ is offensive and deeply concerning.

Perhaps these are just coincidences. Or one of those “moral panics” or “culture wars” used to dismiss those – usually women – raising such concerns. Or maybe Occam’s razor applies: women and girls don’t matter.

(1) A detailed analysis of that interview can be found here.

The Worst Can and Does Happen

A post by Cyclefree and Audrey Ludwig

It was LBJ who said: “You do not examine legislation in the light of the benefits it will convey if properly administered but in the light of the wrongs it would do and the harms it would cause if improperly administered.

Wise advice. It should be heeded by those proposing new laws or policies and airily dismissing any concerns about the misuse of such laws, on the basis that no-one will ever do the thing that the law permits or abuse the loophole created or use the law to achieve an end its proponents never intended.

Let’s take some recent examples much in the news lately and see why that might be so:

– The removal of S.69 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 which meant that such computer evidence was deemed admissible and true, unless the person challenging it could prove otherwise. This change enabled the prosecutions at the heart of the Post Office Horizon scandals.

– The proposed Scottish government ban on conversion therapy, currently out for consultation. This will create new criminal offences which could criminalise parents concerned about gender-questioning children and seeking the appropriate way to manage the situation.

Will such laws be abused or is this an unnecessary worry? What does experience teach us?

1. Extremists / activists / those with malign intent will always exploit the law, loopholes, well-meaning policies for their own ends, if given the opportunity to do so. The fact that those ends were not intended by those enacting the legislation or introducing a policy is irrelevant.

Those seeking to simplify the law on admissibility of computer evidence, for instance, never intended that this should be used to enable prosecutions on the basis of flawed computer evidence.

2. The worst case will happen at some point.

See the Horizon cases as an example. The Scottish conversion therapy ban proposal could enable, in certain circumstances, a parent to be prosecuted for wanting to stop their daughter wearing breast binders because of the harm caused and because they are worried that she has not been correctly diagnosed.

3. The process of investigation is itself a punishment.

The process of investigation is a punishment, one that can often taken an inordinate length of time, be costly and upsetting for the person under investigation and their family. This is so even if no prosecution or other action occurs. The same can occur in disciplinary proceedings: see the length of time between the events leading to Rachel Meade’s suspension by her employer and the judgment this month that her employer and professional regulator had behaved unlawfully in how it had treated her. (The judgment is here; @LegalFeminist’s Naomi Cunningham acted for Ms Meade.)

4. Injustice takes a long time to be reversed.

In the Rachel Meade case, the original complaint was made in 2020. Judgment was finally reached in 2024. In other cases, people can wait very much longer. Seema Misra, one of the subpostmasters prosecuted on Horizon evidence, was convicted in 2010 with her conviction only overturned in 2021.

5. Even when a court rules, those disliking it will deny what it says and others will seek to ignore or misrepresent the judgment.

See, for example, the reaction by some to the Forstater judgment: it was grudgingly accepted that she could have the views she did but she – or anyone else sharing the same views – was not allowed to express them. This was contrary to what the judgment said but this misunderstanding has informed commentary about the case and actions taken by others based on that misunderstanding. This was one of the reasons Rachel Meade’s employers, Westminster City Council and professional regulator, Social Work England, lost the case.

Before passing new laws or introducing policies, before assuming that the worst cannot happen, legislators should heed the advice we set out here last April and, in particular, this: “What are the consequences, especially the unintended ones?” “What is the worst that could happen?

To those who say no-one would do awful things with these laws, the response is: “How can you be certain?” If they wouldn’t do them, the powers are not needed. If they exist, they will be used. If they can be used, they will be abused.

Naivety is unpardonable in legislators and policy-makers.

Safeguarding Children

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has published a long-overdue revision of its technical guidance for schools. Technical it may be, but it relates to a school’s fundamental obligation – safeguarding the children in its care. So far as it relates to schools’ responsibilities in relation to children who assert a trans identity, it is a considerable improvement on its predecessor; see https://sex-matters.org/posts/updates/what-is-new-in-the-ehrc-guidance/ for a clear and accurate account of the changes. 

Barrister Robin Moira White, writing on the website Translucent, is unimpressed with the new guidance.

White starts by noting, correctly, that the law has not changed: anything that was unlawful before the new guidance was issued remains unlawful. The piece accurately quotes the Equality Act’s definition of the protected characteristic of gender reassignment, and notes that it is possible for schoolchildren to have that protected characteristic. After that, the piece rapidly parts company with reality, largely because it works backward from the end it seeks to justify.

The meaning of “sex”

There is live litigation about whether “sex” in the Equality Act means “sex (as modified by operation of a GRC, where one has been granted)” or simply “literal sex”. Both of those possibilities are plainly arguable: Lady Haldane in For Women Scotland Ltd v Scottish Ministers [2022] CSOH 90 found that it meant the former; the appellant will argue on appeal next month that it means the latter. But White proposes a third possibility: that “sex” in the act means the “acquired gender” of those who have done everything they can to align their physiology with their gender identity; and that since in practice children cannot normally undergo surgery at all, or cross-sex hormone treatment before the age of 16, children might meet that standard through “social transition” alone. 

The first step in this arguments rests on the decision of the House of Lords in Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police v A ( No 2 ) [2005] 1 AC 51 (at any rate, this appears to be the case meant when the author cites “A v Chief Constable of West Midlands” ). In A, the House of Lords felt constrained by the Equal Treatment Directive to find a way of giving legal recognition to the extreme steps that the claimant had taken to achieve a female-looking body before the Gender Recognition Act 2004 had become law.  A is an interesting moment in legal history, but it was a brief moment: soon after, Parliament enacted the Gender Recognition Act 2004, which came up with a different solution to the problem. 

But even if A had not been superseded by legislation, the next step in White’s argument is even more optimistic. In A, Lord Bingham said: 

“[E]ffect can be given to the clear thrust of Community law only by reading ‘the same sex’ in section 54(9) of the 1984 Act, and ‘woman’, ‘man’ and ‘men’ in sections 1, 2, 6 and 7 of the 1975 Act, as referring to the acquired gender of a postoperative transsexual who is visually and for all practical purposes indistinguishable from non-transsexual members of that gender.”

White suggests that because children cannot in practice do much to remodel their bodies so that they look more like the opposite sex,  simply presenting themselves differently and asking others to use counterfactual language about them may amount to doing all they possibly can to “transition”, and therefore the law will see them as having literally changed sex even without surgery and hormone treatment. But even accepting that a post-operative transsexual might be “visually and for all practical purposes indistinguishable” from a member of the opposite sex (though one does have to wonder what practical purposes Lord Bingham can have had in mind – not, presumably, the practical purposes to which sexed bodies are most obviously adapted), a child with an unaltered body certainly cannot meet that criterion. 

White says, “this proposition remains to be tested in court”. This is true; but only in the sense that a great many self-evidently false propositions about the law remain to be tested in court. 


Here White repeats the zombie claim that a failure to pretend that a person asserting a trans identity has changed sex is direct discrimination on grounds of gender reassignment: “referring to a trans pupil by the name or pronouns they have rejected would clearly appear to be subjecting them to a detriment by reason of their protected characteristic and so unlawful direct discrimination”. 

This is wrong, and obviously so. If a school refers to all pupils by the pronouns appropriate to their sex, it is not singling out children who say they have a trans identity for special treatment – it is simply applying the same rule to everyone. That may be indirect discrimination, but it is certainly not direct discrimination on grounds of gender reassignment or any other protected characteristic. 

White touches on indirect discrimination, saying “A practice of referring to all pupils by birth pronouns or names would appear to be a practice disadvantageous to those with the protected characteristic of gender reassignment and so unlawful indirect discrimination.” This treats disadvantage as self-evident, and skips over the crucial question of justification entirely. 

Disadvantage is not self-evident. The rule may be said to be a practice that puts children with the protected characteristic of gender reassignment at a particular disadvantage compared to other children, but that in itself is a claim that would need to be established by evidence. There is little or no evidence that the experiment of “social transition” is beneficial for children, and mounting evidence that it may be harmful, both by locking in a cross-sex identity which might otherwise have resolved with puberty, and by contributing to the spread of cases of gender dysphoria by social contagion. Making the question of “particular disadvantage” an issue in legal proceedings could have consequences for which the sex realists would have more relish than their sex-denialist opponents. 

A provision, criterion or practice that puts a group defined by a protected characteristic at a particular disadvantage compared to others is only unlawful indirect discrimination if it cannot be shown to be a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. White fails to acknowledge this, going straight from an unexamined assumption of particular disadvantage to a conclusion that the practice must be unlawful. But the justifications for a policy of truthfulness about sex in a school are many, and obvious, particularly once one pays attention to the rights and interests of the other children in the school. An indirect discrimination claim about “misgendering” is unlikely to succeed. 

Toilets and changing rooms

The law on toilets and changing rooms is clear. Schools are required to provide separate single-sex facilities for boys and girls over the age of 8; if they let some boys use the girls’ or some girls use the boys’, they will have (unlawfully) made those facilities mixed sex. There is no ambiguity here at all. 

White claims that excluding a child with a trans identity from opposite-sex facilities is highly likely to be direct discrimination, and failing that unjustifiable indirect discrimination. 

Both claims are wrong. It is not direct discrimination to apply the same rule (“you may only use the facilities provided for your own sex”) to everyone; there is no different treatment of children asserting a trans identity that could provide a basis for a direct discrimination claim. It is not because a boy who says he is a girl has the protected characteristic of gender reassignment that he is excluded from the girls’ toilets, but because he is a boy. 

As for indirect discrimination, White says that justification would be difficult if there is no evidence of “inappropriate behaviour” in the use of toilets or changing rooms. That misses the point. Single-sex spaces are not entirely or even mainly about safety: they are about privacy, dignity, autonomy, and boundaries. Women and girls are entitled to bodily privacy from men and boys. Men and boys do not become entitled to violate that privacy by a record of good behaviour, nor by declaring a trans identity; nor even by the two combined. Men and boys too are entitled to privacy, dignity, autonomy and boundaries, something White overlooks in the desire to find a justification permitting those of the male sex to enter spaces needed by those of the female sex.

In any event, schools in this situation have the most unanswerable justification imaginable: they have to keep toilets and changing room single-sex because that is the law. If they let boys into the girls’ or vice versa, they will be in breach of their obligation to provide segregated toilets and changing rooms. They will also likely be in breach of their duties to safeguard the children in their care.


White’s piece for Translucent is unlikely to persuade anyone who understands the law in this area. But in the vacuum left by an absence of government guidance, such ill-informed and tendentious writing risks leading schools into serious error. 

The author is a lawyer and Chair of Trustees of a girls’ primary school.