Women can be strip-searched by trans officers who were born male

Women can be strip-searched by trans officers who were born male, say police

  • Guidelines issued to forces urge chief officers ‘to recognise status of transgender colleagues from the moment they transition’
  • The policy says it may be ‘advisable’ to replace officer carrying out search if detainee objects
  • But if ‘the refusal is based on discriminatory views’ it could be ‘recorded as a non-hate crime incident’ 
  • The guidance, quietly issued in December, was brought to light by retired Superintendent Cathy Larkman

Female suspects can be strip-searched by police officers who were born male but identify as women – and could be accused of a hate crime if they object, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.

Guidelines issued to forces urge chief officers ‘to recognise the status of transgender colleagues from the moment they transition – the point at which they present in the gender with which they identify’.

It adds: ‘Thus, once a transgender colleague has transitioned, they will search persons of the same gender as their own lived gender.’

The guidance, quietly issued in December, was brought to light by retired Superintendent Cathy Larkman (pictured), a police officer for more than 30 years, described as one of the ‘standard bearers for gender equality’ in an exhibition to celebrate inspirational women in the police

The National Police Chiefs’ Council policy says it may be ‘advisable’ to replace an officer carrying out a search if a detainee objects, but if ‘the refusal is based on discriminatory views’ it could be ‘recorded as a non-crime hate incident’.

The guidance, quietly issued in December, was brought to light by retired Superintendent Cathy Larkman, a police officer for more than 30 years, described as one of the ‘standard bearers for gender equality’ in an exhibition to celebrate inspirational women in the police.

Having grown concerned about women’s declining trust in the police following scandals such as the murder of Sarah Everard by a serving officer, the mother-of-three asked the College of Policing, the Police Federation and the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) for details of their strip-search policy.

Having grown concerned about women’s declining trust in the police following scandals such as the murder of Sarah Everard by a serving officer, the mother-of-three asked the College of Policing, the Police Federation and the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) for details of their strip-search policy

Mrs Larkman, who is being supported by the Women’s Rights Network campaign group, said she was ‘absolutely gobsmacked’ when the NPCC sent its guidance to her last week. ‘The more I read it, the more shocked I was,’ she told the MoS.

‘This is a devastating blow to women’s trust in the police. Women are not even an afterthought in this guidance – they are completely non-existent. Everything is geared towards the sensitivities of the officer doing the searching.’

On Monday, the Equality and Human Rights Commission watchdog insisted that gyms, hospitals and shops were legally allowed to offer single-sex services. Two days later, Boris Johnson said it was vital that women had single-sex spaces, and ‘biological males’ should not compete in female sports.

Mrs Larkman, who commanded more than 500 officers at South Wales Police, said: ‘My concern is women and girls need to feel they can trust officers who stop them, especially in light of the horrific circumstances of Sarah Everard’s murder. But this is going to cause more problems by upsetting women and eroding trust.’

She is also appalled at the implications for detainees, adding: ‘If I as a woman was being strip-searched and I said ‘No, I’m not being searched by that officer, that’s a man’, I could be written up for committing a non-crime hate incident. The document says if that does happen, they should consider giving support to the officer, not the member of the public. It is absolutely beyond belief’ (stock image)

The officer, who retired last year, fears it will undermine the progress made by police on women’s rights since she joined in 1989, adding: ‘It was a very different world in policing back then – very macho – but it has made massive improvements.’

She says the guidance makes things difficult for female officers, adding: ‘If they are searching biological males who identify as women, they will be under pressure to just go along with it because they could be disciplined for refusing.’

She is also appalled at the implications for detainees, adding: ‘If I as a woman was being strip-searched and I said ‘No, I’m not being searched by that officer, that’s a man’, I could be written up for committing a non-crime hate incident. The document says if that does happen, they should consider giving support to the officer, not the member of the public. It is absolutely beyond belief.’

Heather Binning, founder of the Women’s Rights Network and spokeswoman for the campaign Respect My Sex If You Want My X, said: ‘We are speechless that sex and gender have been conflated, resulting in a confusing and legally discriminatory policy. Female police officers should never be put in the position where they have to search men. Similarly, a woman should never be searched by a male officer, whatever identity he claims.’

An NPCC spokesman said: ‘All searches are dealt with on a case-by-case basis after consideration by a custody sergeant based on the response of the detainee.’

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