Petition launched for sex of those charged with rape to be recorded ‘accurately’

A feminist think tank has launched a petition urging Scottish legal authorities to accurately record the sex of people charged or convicted of rape or attempted rape after it emerged that men accused of the crime could self-identify as women.

Those accused of rape could identify as a woman under current guidelines

Murray Blackburn Mackenzie has claimed that the current policy could distort crime statistics - and affect the measures needed to tackle crime.

The organisation said: “Our decision to raise this issue through the petitions process comes at the end of a long period of engagement on our part with various organisations about the recording of sex in the criminal justice system. This has still left unclear exactly what policies are applied across the system in practice, and how and when they have developed.

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“In April, we decided the Parliament’s Petitions Committee now offered the best route to take this forward, and so began the process of developing a proposal after the system re-opened for submissions in May. The Committee is well-placed to obtain more clarity about the situation across different organisations, to bring some transparency to consideration of the issues and, if persuaded, to give direction about the importance of recording sex accurately in these cases across the criminal justice system, as well as offering a formal mechanism for establishing the level of public interest."

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In a Freedom of Information Request response sent to MBM in April, Police Scotland stated: “If the male who self-identifies as a woman were to attempt to or to penetrate the vagina, anus or mouth of a victim with their penis, Police Scotland would record this as attempted rape or rape and the male who self-identifies as a woman would be expected to be recorded as a female on relevant police systems.”

MBM said that of the 2,343 reported rapes or attempted rapes in Scotland in 2019-20 – including 300 prosecutions and 130 convictions – all convictions were recorded as male.

The organisation said: “The figures for female offenders are therefore very sensitive to any reclassification of cases. It is possible in theory for a woman to be charged with rape as an accessory. In practice however, such cases are very rare. We queried the one recorded female conviction for rape or attempted rape in the past decade: the Scottish Government now believes this is likely to be due to a “data error”. We have not found a case reported anywhere of a rape committed using a surgically-constructed penis.”

Detective Superintendent Fil Capaldi of Police Scotland said: "The sex/gender identification of individuals who come into contact with the police will be based on how they present or how they self-declare, which is consistent with the values of the organisation.

"Police Scotland requires no evidence or certification as proof of biological sex or gender identity other than a person's self-declaration, unless it is pertinent to any investigation with which they are linked as a victim, witness or accused and it is evidentially critical that we legally require this proof, or there is reason for further enquiry based on risk. We would look for the most sensitive way to acquire this information."

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Working with Police Scotland, we would consider the details of any public petition presented to us on recording sex in cases of rape or attempted rape.”

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