Hate crime judge: PSNI may have to deal with ‘misgendering’ of trans people

The judge leading NI’s independent review into hate crime legislation says that in future the PSNI may have to deal with people who deliberately refer to transgender people by their birth gender.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 8th January 2020, 12:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 8th January 2020, 10:19 am

Judge Desmond Marrinan said he was aware of the case of English Roman Catholic journalist Caroline Farrow, who was investigated by police last year after “misgendering” the trans child of a campaigner she had debated with.

Mr Marrinan said that freedom of speech “should allow people to be critical provided they do so in a civilised and dignfied way”.

But asked whether the English case shows police are already interfering with free speech on the issue, he said he was not sure if Surrey police had apologised to the journalist.

“Transgender is not yet a protected characteristic [in NI],” he said. “It may be at the end of this review or after the assembly looks at it, and the police will have to concern themselves with how they deal with it.”

He also said he was aware that doctors from the Tavistock clinic in England have also been resigning over concerns about the number of young children being given transgender hormone therapy.

The children were as young as eight or nine and 30-40% of them are autistic, he said.

Judge Desmond Marrinan who is leading the Independent Review of Hate Crime Legislation in Northern Ireland. Picture: Michael Cooper

“Now those are extreme examples. Maybe issues like that will come during consultation. Clearly the law the law would become ludicrous and dangerous vehicle if it started to criminalise people and arrest them...” he said.

Ms Farrow she she had been invited to attend a voluntary taped police interview under caution over the matter, the BBC reported. The woman she was debating with, Susie Green, said in March that she was withdrawing her complaint from police. However police said she would have to make a formal statement to do so and it is not clear if this has yet been done.

Mr Marrinan said he was also personally against excluding academics from public debates over the issue because of their views.

“Society now has to face up to the question of freedom of speech,” he said. “Freedom of speech cuts both ways. In my view it should allow people to be critical provided they do so in a civilised and dignfied way.”