Scottish GRCs and the Consequences for Public Protection
Do you live in England or Wales? Did you miss the deadline of 16 May to complete the Scottish Government’s survey on its proposals to reform the Gender Recognition Act?
It’s not too late to make your voice heard.
You can still write to, or meet with, your MP and ask them to lobby Ministers at Westminster to refuse cross-border recognition of GRCs issued in Scotland based on self-ID.
You might ask: why should I? After all, it only affects Scotland, doesn’t it?
Well no, as Claire Loneragan points out in her article, Self ID in the UK, and as Fair Play For Women explains here. Take Action: Say NO to letting Sex Self-ID in through the back door. • Fair Play For Women. If you haven’t already, please take a look.
But even if you think those reasons, however justified, are too remote to concern you, let me give you a compelling reason why this rush by the Scottish Government towards easily-obtained GRCs has serious implications for each and every one of us living in the UK.
Quite simply, it presents a wholly foreseeable threat to public protection. Wherever we live in the UK, we will pay the price. Let me explain.
Protecting the public was my legal responsibility for nearly 28 years. I served in English prisons first as a prison officer and thereafter rising through the grades to mid-ranking prison governor. Dealing with recidivists and risk assessing their potential for further offending was my bread and butter.
In March 2021, HM Prison Service introduced a new risk predictor tool known as OSP (OASys Sexual reoffending Predictor) to assess all adult male prisoners in England and Wales who were convicted of a current or previous sexual or sexually motivated offence. It proved to be rather more accurate than all previous processes used to predict a male sex offender’s likelihood of future offending and it enabled prisons and the Probation Service to tailor the management of these higher risk offenders more effectively both during custody and after release.
The reason why OSP is exclusively a risk predictor tool for men and why it cannot - and is not - used for women is because female sex offenders (statistically a vanishingly small group indeed) have vastly different motivations and patterns of offending. They have their own risk assessment process, an exclusively female-centred one.
I think you know where I am going with this.
OSP is not used for male sex offenders who have GRCs. They are automatically excluded because their legal sex is female. Instead, the risk assessment process for biologically female sex offenders is used, even though it is completely invalid for male-pattern sex offending and useless at predicting their future risk.
Don’t take my word for it. The Prisons Minister, Victoria Atkins, recently confirmed this legal loophole in the House of Commons.
The result? The GRA already renders current public protection policy a mess. We know that there is at least one male sex offender with GRC in a women’s prison in England and he has been removed from OSP.
What I can reasonably predict is that the mess is statistically likely to get worse. It will impact in ways never intended by the authors of the existing Gender Recognition Act.
We know that at last count, there were 158 male prisoners (including 12 cross dressers) in male prisons in England and Wales who claim to be transgender, and that nearly 60% of them have current or previous convictions for sex offences. For comparison, the overall proportion of sex offenders in the general male prison population is less than 15%. There is an undeniable pattern here.
What we don’t know - and even though Scottish male prisoners were ten-a-penny in the various prisons at which I served in the North of England, I’d be amazed if the Prison Service even knew - is how many of those have a Scottish birth certificate or are “ordinarily resident” in Scotland.
Either would qualify a Scottish prisoner in prison anywhere in the UK for a GRC in a matter of months when the Scottish Government has its way and amends the Act. It has already confirmed that being in prison is not a bar. It has already confirmed that being a sex offender is not a bar. After all, it’s wonderfully inclusive.
Current England and Wales Prison Service transgender policy - preferred pronouns, access to ‘the preferred facilities list’ meaning make-up, women’s clothing, etc - will have the unintended consequence of supporting that quick and easy path to a Scottish GRC.
In short, an unquantifiable number of Scottish-born male prisoners in England and Wales - statistically likely to include a high proportion of sex offenders - will be able to obtain a GRC, and those GRCs will not only mean they have a right to be transferred to a women’s prison but if they are sex offenders, they will automatically be excluded from any meaningful risk assessment that will predict with any accuracy their potential for committing further sex offences after release.
Without a meaningful risk assessment, it will be impossible for the Prison Service or the Probation Service to put into place appropriate licence conditions and safeguards to mitigate the risk to the public on release.
Outraged? I am. I have written to my MP and laid the facts bare. She can’t now claim that no one told her, that she didn’t know. In fact, I pointed out to her that I can see no good reason why any male sex offender with GRC - whether born in Scotland or not - should be excused from a risk predictor tool known to be highly accurate. I certainly don’t see why a bad policy decision should be made worse by the Scottish Government’s determination to rush through a policy that doesn’t even have majority support from Scottish voters.