Police scolded for defending woman from transphobes who called her a man

A police force has been forced to say sorry after becoming involved in a transgender row on social media.

Sussex Police was accused of ‘playing identity politics and denying biology’ by the Home Secretary after calling out a Twitter user’s ‘hateful comments’ against a jailed trans woman.

Sally Ann Dixon was sent to prison for 20 years after being convicted of historic sex offences against five girls and two boys before she had transitioned.

Sussex Police had insisted it would not ‘tolerate any hateful comments’ about gender identity ‘regardless of crimes committed’ in response to a tweet expressing gender critical views.

The force told the female Twitter user to familiarise herself with what it regarded as hate on its website.

But then Home Secretary Suella Braverman waded into the row, telling the force to ‘focus on catching criminals not policing pronouns’.

And within hours Sussex Police said yesterday that its initial comment had been ‘inconsistent with our usual style of engagement’, and deleted the tweet.

Dixon, from Havant, Hampshire, was convicted of 30 indecent assaults between 1989 and 1996, when she was known as John Stephen Dixon.

The 58-year-old, sentenced at Lewes Crown Court on September 8, transitioned to female in 2004, according to the force.

When police referred to her as a ‘Woman convicted of historic offences against children in Sussex’ in a headline, there was a backlash on Twitter from users unhappy that it had not been made clear that the crimes were committed when Dixon was a man.

Responding to one female Twitter user, Sussex Police asked her to ‘familiarise’ herself with hate speech. adding: ‘If you have gender critical views you wish to express this can be done on other platforms or your own page, not targeted at an individual.’

That prompted SNP MP Joanna Cherry to tweet: ‘I think you could do with familiarising yourselves with the right to #FreeSpeech under #ECHR & the #HumanRightsAct & the protection for gender critical beliefs afforded under the Equality Act.

Now the force has U-turned.

In a statement released last night, it said: ‘We reported factually on the findings of the court which heard that, at the time of the offences, Dixon was living as a man, John Stephen Dixon.

‘The relevant offences were recorded as being committed by a male.

‘An earlier reply to a comment on Twitter was inconsistent with our usual style of engagement; we apologise for this and have removed the comment.

‘We recognise the rights of the public to express themselves freely within the boundaries of the law.’

Karen Ingala Smith, who founded Femicide Census, an organisation which provides information on women who have been killed by men in the UK, argued that ‘the sex of the perpetrator certainly is not irrelevant in crimes of sexual violence against children, for example rates of perpetration differ hugely by sex.’

She added: ‘Moreover, if crimes committed by males are recorded as crimes by females then policy based on crime data will be hopeless.’

Frances Crook, former chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, now co-convenor of the Commission on Political Power, said 15,000 men are in prison convicted of sex crimes, compared to around 100 women.

She said allocating even a small number of male crimes to women would ‘skew the figures’.

Ms Cherry and Ms Braverman welcomed the force changing its stance, with the Home Secretary thanking officers for ‘their swift apology & retraction’.

She added: ‘The best police officers focus on solving crimes and supporting victims. Not political correctness.’

Dixon, who will be subject to a sexual harm prevention order indefinitely, was also found not guilty of four indecent assaults.

Detective Constable Amy Pooley, from Sussex Police’s complex abuse unit, said Dixon had come to know their victims through family connections ‘and used that trusted access to systematically abuse each of them for sexual gratification, in some cases for several months at a time’.

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