Politics

Kenny MacAskill attacks Scottish Government ‘dogma’ over rapists identifying as female

A FORMER SNP Justice Secretary has demanded Police Scotland abandons its plan to record rapists as women if they self-identify as female.

Kenny MacAskill, who is now depute leader of the Alba party, said he was “aghast” when he heard the force would record male-born sexual predators as women if they asked.

He said the police should put the public interest first, not “any dogma in fashion with the Scottish Government”.

He has now written to the force’s oversight body, the Scottish Police Authority, asking if its board approved the policy and on what basis, and calling for it to reversed. 

In a letter to SPA chair Martyn Evans, he said: “The decision to record a rape and other sexual assaults as being perpetrated by a female if the offender self identifies as such is not based on any current legal requirements. 

“It is hugely controversial and threatening to women’s rights.

“The Scottish Police Authority has a clear duty to act in the wider public interest not simply accept any dogma in fashion with the Scottish Government.”

The Government plans to reform the Gender Recognition Act to allow transgender people to legally identify as their chosen gender in future without a medical diagnosis, as is currently the case.

The Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009 defines rape as nonconsensual penetration with a penis, meaning it can only be committed by someone with male genitals.

However earlier this month, assistant chief constable Gary Ritchie, said Police Scotland would record rapes as being committed by women if the attacker “identifies as female”, even if they have not legally changed gender.

Author JK Rowling suggested it was akin to the abuse of language and thought in George Orwell’s 1984.

She tweeted: “War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength. The Penised Individual Who Raped You is a Woman.”

Current Justice Secretary Keith Brown conceded the approach carried risks, but said Police Scotland were alert to the possibility offenders might try to abuse the system.

Mr MacAskill, the MP for East Lothian, said: “People will be aghast, as I was, to learn that, when it comes to the recording of sexual crimes against women, including rape, self-id is already a reality, despite there being no legal requirement for it.

“Public authorities such as Police Scotland have a duty to ensure that data is recorded accurately, especially when it is an issue as sensitive as sexual violence against women.  The fact that official data could record a rise in sexual crimes being committed by women when that is not in fact the case is deeply worrying. 

“I have therefore written to the Chair of the Scottish Police Authority demanding urgent answers on whether this policy is one that has been considered and approved by the board, what consultation has taken place and what possible basis and justification there can be for this.

“According to Police Scotland, the sex of the person perpetrating rape and other sexual assaults against women is irrelevant and men are already being recorded as female if they choose to ‘present (or self declare)’ as such.  This policy threatens the welfare and safety of women and is completely unacceptable.  It should be reviewed and reversed as a matter of urgency.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Police Authority said: “The Authority expects Police Scotland to comply with any relevant legislation and the Scottish Government’s Chief Statistician’s guidance on data recording. 

“We also expect all data collection to be consistent with the European Statistics code of practice that data collection needs to be carried out in a way that treats people with dignity and respect.

“The Authority’s Policing Performance Committee will consider any outputs from Police Scotland’s review of its recording practices in due course.”

Deputy Chief Constable Malcolm Graham recently told MSPs the force was waiting for Government guidance on rape suspects asking to be recognised as women, a theoretical possibility yet to happen in practice.

He told Holyrood’s Justice Committe: “We have had 1,229 rapes reported to us in the first six months of this year. 

“Nearly seven rapes reported every day and there has never been a set of circumstances… where we would have somebody who has committed a rape who was biologically a man self-identifying as a woman.

“I think if it was to happen we would look very carefully at each set of circumstances.”

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