Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre CEO’s position ‘untenable’ after damning tribunal ruling as two board members resign

Edinburgh charity Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre criticised for ‘Kafka’-like investigation

Two board members at a rape crisis support service are understood to have stepped down following a damning employment tribunal judgment that ruled that a woman who was subjected to a “heresy hunt” for her gender critical views.

The resignations at Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre have intensified pressure on its chief executive, Mridul Wadhwa, to consider her position after the tribunal concluded she was the “invisible hand” behind an investigation it described as “deeply flawed”.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Roz Adams won her claim of constructive dismissal against the centre, with the tribunal judge finding she had suffered harassment and discrimination. The tribunal heard Ms Adams was supportive of trans individuals, but believes biological sex is real and not to be conflated with gender identity – beliefs which are currently referred to as “gender critical” or sex realist.

According to The Times, two members of the centre’s board – Miren Sagues, its former chair, and Katie Horsburgh, a trustee who dealt with a grievance lodged by Ms Adams about her treatment – are believed to have resigned since the judgement.

The ruling described how when working at the centre, having started the job in February 2021, Ms Adams became aware of its mantra that “a trans woman is a woman”. The tribunal heard that she felt it became more and more apparent there were issues regarding the way that gender issues were dealt with in the organisation, which she described as “eggshelly”.

It heard that a particular issue for Ms Adams, referred to as the claimant, was what to say to service users who wanted to be sure they would be seen by someone who was biologically a woman.

In June 2022, she received an email from an abuse survivor, who wanted to know whether the person she was going to see was a man or a woman, and sought guidance from her superiors about how to respond.

Mridul Wadhwa is the chief executive of the Edinburgh Rape Crisis CentreMridul Wadhwa is the chief executive of the Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre
Mridul Wadhwa is the chief executive of the Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre

Disciplinary proceedings against Ms Adams then started in late June 2022, although the tribunal said it could not establish the precise chain of events that let to this.

In the ruling, Judge Ian McFatridge wrote: “In the view of the tribunal, we are entitled to infer from all of the evidence that the reason the disciplinary investigation was commenced and the claimant interviewed was because the respondent wished to make an example of the claimant because of her gender critical beliefs.

“It appeared to be the view of the respondent's senior management that the claimant was guilty of a heresy in that she did not fully subscribe to the gender ideology, which they did and which they wished to promote in the organisation. This was an act of harassment on the basis of her belief.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

It added: “We would agree with the characterisation of the claimant's representative that this was a heresy hunt.”

In April 2021, the centre was at the centre of controversy when Ms Wadhwa, a trans woman who did not have a gender recognition certificate and was thus legally male, was appointed as its new chief executive.

The tribunal said it appeared the centre's chief executive had formed the view the claimant was transphobic, which led to a “completely spurious and mishandled” disciplinary process.

It described the investigation carried out by the centre as “deeply flawed” and “somewhat reminiscent of the work of Franz Kafka”. The tribunal said Ms Adams felt she had no alternative but to resign, which she did in spring 2023, and upheld her claim of unfair constructive dismissal.

Ms Adams said she welcomed the employment tribunal ruling. She said: “They unanimously found that Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre unlawfully discriminated against me on the grounds of my sex realist (gender critical) belief and constructively unfairly dismissed me.

“This is a victory for all people who have been subjected to sexual violence who need a choice of worker, and group support on the basis of sex in order to feel safe. For me it validates and makes worthwhile three years of struggle.”

She thanked those who supported her and added: “I hope Scottish Government, the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator, Rape Crisis Scotland and all those in the sector feel emboldened by this judgment to safeguard this important choice for survivors, as part of ensuring services are welcoming to all who need them.”

Ms Adams started work in May 2023 at Beira's Place, a support service for women who have experienced sexual violence, which was founded by JK Rowling.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Reacting to the tribunal’s judgement, Helen Joyce, director of advocacy at the human rights charity Sex Matters, said the “damning” ruling made Ms Wadhwa’s position “clearly untenable”. She added: “The unlawful harassment of Roz Adams, and the bizarre and extreme trans-inclusion policies that fuelled that harassment, can all be traced back to Wadhwa.”

The ERCC's board of directors said they were “saddened” by the outcome of the tribunal and will now take time to reflect on the written judgement.

In a statement on the centre’s website, they said: “We strive to provide a safe accessible and inclusive service and are committed to improving continuously. We are fully supportive of Rape Crisis Scotland's commissioning of an independent review of ERCC practice.

“This will help ensure our practices and procedures meet the highest standards as set out in the Rape Crisis national service standards, and that survivors receive the exceptional quality of support they deserve.

“We want to reassure all survivors who are currently accessing our services and anyone seeking support that we are still here for you, and you matter to us. Our services remain unaffected by these events.”

Rape Crisis Scotland said that an independent review into the practices and procedures at the autonomous Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre has been commissioned.

Related topics:



Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.