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‘Drawn out’ process on policy for recording sex of rape accused condemned

The campaigners gave evidence to Holyrood’s Petitions Committee on Wednesday (PA)
The campaigners gave evidence to Holyrood’s Petitions Committee on Wednesday (PA)

Petitioners calling for the sex of people charged with rape to be “accurately recorded” have criticised police and the Scottish Government for the “drawn out” process of deciding policy on the issue.

Lucy Hunter Blackburn and Lisa Mackenzie gave evidence to Holyrood’s Petitions Committee on Wednesday, saying various bodies in the justice sector are “playing ping pong” with the issue – deferring decisions to each other.

The two women, along with fellow petitioner Kath Murray, lodged a petition in July 2021 calling on police, the Crown Office and the courts “to accurately record the sex of people charged or convicted of rape or attempted rape”.

A Police Scotland submission from May this year said a review of its recording policy is ongoing, while there are no known cases of a biological male being charged with the physical act of rape and self-identifying as a woman.

The police submission said there are a number of scenarios where a woman may be recorded as having committed rape, including aiding and abetting the crime.

The petitioners’ own submissions discussed the recent cases of rapist Isla Bryson and paedophile Andrew Miller – saying the police response is “technically correct” as Bryson declared a trans identity after being charged and Miller chose to record himself as a man.

Speaking to the committee, Dr Blackburn said rape is an inherently “male crime” and accurate recording is needed to maintain faith in statistics.

She said: “We had the outgoing chief constable (of Police Scotland) saying the force is institutionally sexist, we cannot think of anything much more misogynist than a man being able to choose whether he’s being recorded as the sex he is or the opposite one.

Isla Bryson court case
The petitioners’ submissions referred to the Isla Bryson case (Andrew Milligan/PA)

“We think that’s wrong, in this context, in these kind of cases.”

She said submissions to the committee from various public bodies show they are playing “ping pong with this issue and fail to take responsibility”.

Committee member Fergus Ewing said there appeared to be an “abnegation of responsibility” on the part of the Scottish Government.

Dr Blackburn said: “We think Police Scotland, particularly, it’s unwillingness – but also the Scottish Government’s – to give leadership here has made this policy and this petition such a drawn-out process.

“It should not take two-and-a-half years to bottom out that rapists should be recorded as male.”