Met police officers sport pride colours on their epaulettes, with a police car decked out in pride colours behind them (Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
Artillery Row

Fair Cop?

How Stonewall turned the police into political activists

On National Autism Day an organisation that campaigns for police neutrality offered a box of chocolates to anyone who could tweet a picture of an Autism Society flag flying from a police flagpole. The award went uncollected. This was despite the fact that the Autism Society has expressed concern that those with autism are served particularly poorly once inside the criminal justice system and when immediate families are factored in, 2.8 million people in Britain are affected by it.

The point that the group, Fair Cop, were making was the difference between the way the police treat LGBT rights charity Stonewall and any other group. It would be hard to locate a single police force that hadn’t hoisted at least one version of the rainbow flag above their constabulary during the annual Pride event. Fair Cop have counted 24 police forces in England and Wales paying an annual subscription of £2,500, per force, per annum, to the campaign group – not to mention a huge amount of extra spending on Stonewall paraphernalia. Wiltshire police, which records gender critical tweets as “hate incidences”, has spent over £3,000 on rainbow epaulettes since 2017, and FOI requests reveal the £720 cost of the Met police painting a single squad car in rainbow colours. Sadly (or perhaps mercifully) we have no idea how many cars have been repainted with our taxes. During the Orange March, constables are told not to march in time with the music in case it gives the impression of favouritism. During Pride, the police provide the band.

The police are now pushing for law changes and enforcing things on Stonewall’s wish-list

Many people left wondering how one particular group has been so successful in co-opting the police may be interested to read a remarkable document revealed last year by the journalist James Kirkup that guides the trans agenda in the UK which, amongst other things, explicitly advises lobbyists to avoid too much press coverage because the more people know what they’re asking for, the less likely they are to support it.

But a new report by Fair Cop released this week has revealed the extent to which Stonewall has bypassed the need to change the law officially by successfully turning the police into a campaigning organisation. The boys in blue are now pushing for law changes and even enforcing things that are on Stonewall’s wish-list but not actually law, for instance treating “gender identity” as a protected characteristic.

Fair Cop’s report highlights that British police forces no longer have sole loyalty to British law. In 2002, the oath of allegiance was revised to include the promise that, in addition to keeping the law they would work to uphold “fundamental human rights”. There is no shortage of groups seeking to define which rights are fundamental. Amnesty International calls for the Gender Recognition Act to be changed, calling it “dehumanising” and “worryingly out-of-date”. Stonewall agrees, believing in the right of people to define themselves as whatever gender they like on any given day.

One of the tweets by Harry Miller, which prompted a police investigation

The police’s close association with Stonewall risks making it an accomplice to the lobby group’s political agenda. One way the police try to square this circle of upholding the law but also moving beyond it is the Orwellian concept of a “non-crime incident” which can show up on a DBS check even though police admit the “incidents” break no law. Earlier this year the Telegraph revealed police have recorded nearly 120,000 “non-crime” hate incidents which may have stopped those accused from getting jobs. The guidelines, published by the College of Policing, state that any action perceived to be motivated by hostility towards religion, race or transgender identity must be recorded “irrespective of whether there is any evidence to identify the hate element”.

The concept of a “non-crime incident” was created in 2014 after an inquiry into the murder of the black British teenager Stephen Lawrence showed messages exchanged between the killers beforehand suggested they were likely to commit a crime, but the messages in themselves did not actually constitute an offence. Such messages could have been used in the prosecution of the eventual crime of murder.

Anybody can leave a mark on anybody else’s criminal record with no evidence

But today “non-crime incidents” are treated as if they are crimes in themselves. Last year Harry Miller, an ex-police officer was visited at work by Humberside police who wanted to “check his thinking” on trans issues after somebody complained about some of his tweets. Last year the High Court found that the police probe into his messages was unlawful, but such non-offences are still being recorded by forces despite the fact that Miller took the force to court, and the judge ruled his tweets were political speech and therefore subject to enhanced protection under Article 10 of the European Court of Human Rights.

Since the idea of such recorded ‘incidents’ was created merely to build up a picture of a suspect rather than be used to stop people getting a job, there is no criteria for what constitutes one. College of Policing guidelines say it is anything “perceived by the victim, or any other person to be motivated (wholly or partially) by a hostility [sic] or prejudice.” In other words, anybody can complain about anybody and the guidelines say the police must record it, “irrespective of whether there is any evidence to identify the hate element”.

What does all of this mean for the ability of people to debate trans rights in Britain? I asked Miller in a recent podcast whether people like him should stay quiet for the sake of saving trans people’s feelings.  He shot back: “What other political campaign asks the other side to keep quiet to be kind? This whole thing is predicated on whether or not it is political. And the campaign to change the Gender Recognition Act is political.”  The Stonewall UK General Election manifesto 2019 amongst other things, called for gender identity to be included in the census, gay conversion therapy to be banned and the need to signify a gender on official forms to be scrapped. All live political issues.

Harry Miller insists Fair Cop is not trying to shut down debate, but fighting for the right to have one in the first place. His final comments are worth reproducing here:

If you want to campaign for trans rights, I’m all for your right to campaign as hard as you like, to march up and down the street waving your flag… to hold meetings in a public square. I just want the right to say “well I’ve got a different point of view, and gender critical people and women and lesbians and gays have a different point of view” and we want to have our say in the public square and not have the police take a side, that seems to me to be the very fundamental of a civil, free, democratic society.

Miller is now waiting for another day in court. Humberside police had their wings clipped last year by the High Court, but Fair Cop are hoping that part of the College of Policing guidelines themselves are declared unlawful. Until then, the exalted status in the police of one specific lobby group will remain in place, and anybody can leave a mark on anybody else’s criminal record with no evidence. For all the criticism of Coronavirus laws and people pointing out the danger of jobsworth Covid Marshals like Warden Hodges snitching on their neighbours, the current state of policing on trans issues is worse because the de-facto laws have faced so little scrutiny. It’s more Big Brother than Dad’s Army and arguably that should worry us more.

Enjoying The Critic online? It's even better in print

Try five issues of Britain’s newest magazine for £10

Critic magazine cover