Nottinghamshire-based Girl Guide commissioner Monica Sulley poses with a rifle.

Misguided or misgendered?

Police are investigating a woman for raising safeguarding concerns about Girl Guide commissioner Monica Sulley

Artillery Row

A teacher and mother-of-three has been questioned under caution by Merseyside Police for sending a letter to Girlguiding UK raising safeguarding concerns.

Her story begins in November 2021 when it emerged that Girlguiding UK had appointed a local commissioner called Monica Sulley, a role that involves overseeing Rainbows, Brownies, Guides and Rangers in Southwell, Nottinghamshire. 

Young girls in this case were threatened

Social media reports showed that Sulley, a trans woman, had posted pictures of herself on Instagram wearing dominatrix clothing, one of which was captioned “Now behave yourselves or Mistress will have to punish you #mistress.” She had also posted a picture in which she wielded what appeared to be a fake assault rifle. 

The Merseyside woman, who does not wish to be named, wrote two emails expressing safeguarding concerns about the appointment: one to Girlguiding UK, and one to the local Girlguiding organisation in Southwell. She was one of a number to write such emails: in late November, Mail Online reported that Girlguiding UK was carrying out an investigation into Sulley.

Monica Sulley poses in a dominatrix outfit on social media

She describes the emails as “rather polite” and “relatively kind”. Her daughter had been a Girl Guide, and she herself had done some volunteering with the organisation. “I thought it was a really uncontroversial, uncontentious email,” she says. It expressed her view that “this person should not be in charge of young people.” (The Critic has seen the email and can confirm her description of it. It does, however, refer to Sulley as a “male”, which may be what prompted the report to police.)

The woman received a formal acknowledgement of her email from the national organisation, which didn’t address the particular issue she’d raised. She then heard nothing more until 7 January this year, when a police officer came to her house and told her she needed to attend the police station for an interview under caution, which “meant that I could attend voluntarily, but that if I chose not to attend I could be arrested.”

As a response to a simple email, this felt, she says, as if things were “spinning out of control.” 

On 13 January, she was interviewed under caution at Smithdown Lane Police Station in Liverpool. During the interview, which lasted an hour, she was asked about the contents of the email and why she sent it. She was told that she could be charged under the Malicious Communications Act.

Monica Sulley poses with a fake assault rifle on social media

The police officer who questioned her didn’t have the email with him, she says. He asked her if she had sent the email directly to Sulley, which she didn’t — though she now suspects that her email had been passed on to Sulley. 

She didn’t have difficulty answering the questions, she says: “I’d been a teacher and a mum for years and am old enough to feel certain and confident that there was a breach in safeguarding. I kept referring to the unsuitability of such a person for the role, and that it meant that young girls in this case were threatened, that their safety and privacy were threatened.” 

She also told the police officer that safeguarding rules exist to protect women and girls from the minority of biological males who are predatory. At the prompting of the duty solicitor, she pointed out that when Girl Guides go to camp, they share accommodation and showers, and that “to have male-bodied men in that setting, I believed, was a safeguarding concern.”

At the end of the interview, she was told that her case would be sent to the CPS for consideration. Her duty solicitor, she reports, “said he had never been more baffled in his life.” When the solicitor asked the police officer whether it was necessary to proceed to the CPS, the police officer replied, she says, that the email was considered a “hate crime”. 

It’s shutting them down in a very unlawful and cruel way

Claims on social media suggest that other women have also been reported to the police for making complaints about Sulley.  They are the latest in a string of cases in which people with gender-critical views have been questioned by the police for expressing views considered transphobic, including Harry Miller, Marion Millar and Ceri Black. Earlier this week, Jen Swayne, a South Wales woman, was questioned by police for posting feminist stickers. 

The Merseyside woman now faces a wait of up to six months to see if the CPS decides to prosecute. Even if it decides not to, she could still have a “non-crime hate incident” on her record — that is, an incident in which someone claims to have been on the receiving end of a hateful comment relating to a legally protected characteristic; such as race, religion or gender reassignment. 

As a teacher who sometimes does voluntary work, she knows that this would then be revealed in an enhanced DBS check. (Following a ruling in December by the Court of Appeal, home secretary Priti Patel has said she will introduce a new code of practice to limit the police’s recording of non-crime hate incidents.) 

For now, she says, she is going to “try hard and put it to one side”. She feels, however, that this is part of a wider attempt to shut down people who “feel uneasy that you can just identify as a woman and be male-bodied. And it’s shutting them down in a very unlawful and cruel way.”

We reached out to the Merseyside police for comment, and they confirmed that they received a report of malicious communications” and that an interview with the woman in question had taken place.

Detective Inspector Steven O’Neill gave us the following statement: “This incident will be fully reviewed by a dedicated detective specialising in hate crime. We are maintaining an open mind and reviewing all the available information in the case.

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