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Sussex apologises in row over transgender sex offender’s status

Sussex responded to criticism from the Home Secretary that the force was “playing identity politics and denying biology”.

The incident centred around a transgender woman who had committed sexual offences years before transitioning.

Sally Ann Dixon was jailed for 20 years earlier in September having been convicted of 30 indecent assaults.

Certain Twitter users objected to Sussex’s headline following the sentencing which read; “Woman convicted of historic offences against children in Sussex”.

In response, Sussex tweeted that it would not “tolerate any hateful comments” around gender identity “regardless of crimes committed”.

The force's official account went on to advise a Twitter user who said she was exercising her gender critical views to familiarise herself with what is regarded as hate on its website.

However, hours later the force released a statement, saying that a comment made via its official Twitter account had been “inconsistent with our usual style of engagement”, adding that the comment had since been deleted.

Sussex added that it recognised rights of expression within the boundaries of the law.

Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, had said of the initial tweet that the force should “focus on catching criminals not policing pronouns”.

There has been a long-standing issue around how forces record the gender of offenders - particularly regarding rape. 

In March, LBC published results of FOIs they had sent to individual forces regarding how they record the gender of suspected rapists. 

39 of 47 forces asked responded to the FOIs and 24 forces said that upon an arrest or charge with rape, the official record would show the alleged offender's preferred gender identity rather than their sex at birth. 

West Midlands and Kent told LBC they would record the "perceived" and the self-identified gender of the individual, while other forces including Cumbria said that while usually they would record the preferred gender identity - rape was an exception as the legal definition of the offence requires a penis. 

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”.

Sussex has since confirmed that the offences Dixon committed were recorded as having been committed by a man.

SNP MP Joanna Cherry had also interacted with the force over Twitter, writing: “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.

“You have no locus to compel women’s speech.”

HMI Chief Andy Cooke has additionally previously told officers they are not the "thought police" - urging them to stay away from "politics with a small 'p'". 

Both Suella Braverman and Ms Cherry welcomed the force’s apology released last night.

Dixon’s offences had taken place between 1989 and 1996 against five girls and two boys. Dixon was then known as John Stephen Dixon. A victim first came forward in 2019.

The 58-year-old had transitioned to female in 2004.

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