There are calls for an independent review of how gender is recorded after it emerged Police Scotland allows criminal suspects to self-identify without providing proof of their birth sex.
Justice secretary Humza Yousaf told MSPs on Wednesday that the national force requires no evidence of gender other than a person’s self declaration unless it is “pertinent” to a criminal investigation they are involved in.
Concerns have been raised about the practice “skewing” official statistics if women are recorded as having committed offences perpetrated by men.
Criminologist Kath Murray, of analysis group Murray Blackburn Mackenzie, said: “Across the public sector, the type of data recorded and reported in the categories male and female has been changed over the past decade, with no wider scrutiny or debate, and it seems, with little involvement from bodies such as the Office of National Statistics.
“It is now time to take stock, review current practices, and develop a clear national position that ensures data collected by public bodies is reliable, unambiguous, and consistent with the law.”
SNP MSP Joan McAlpine, who raised the issue with Mr Yousaf earlier this week, has highlighted the case of Katie Dolatowski, a transgender sex offender who was living in a women-only hostel after being convicted of sexually assaulting a ten-year-old girl.
Ms McAlpine said many people would be “shocked” by Mr Humza’s response that police do not ask for proof of a person’s gender at birth.
Mr Yousaf said he was willing to look into the issue further.
He said: “If we should have an unexpected result, such as a rise in the number of women being recorded as committing sexual offences, we would, of course, investigate that further.
“However, I would say that the statistic that the member quotes — men accounting for 96 per cent of sexual crime — is, in itself, evidence that there is certainly not a pattern of behaviour of those who are born biologically male self-identifying as women to either commit sexual offences or manipulate statistics.”
Chief Superintendent John McKenzie, of Police Scotland said: “We treat all offenders fairly and with respect, regardless of their gender, in line with Police Scotland’s code of ethics.
“All crimes will be investigated on a case by case basis and in only a very small number of cases would it be likely that any evidence of gender would be required.”