Gender ideology and criminal justice

Battle of Ideas festival 2023, Sunday 29 October, Church House, London


Some of the biggest controversies in relation to gender identity and criminal justice concern transwomen prisoners in women’s jails. The shocking example of double rapist Adam Graham (Isla Bryson) is said to have brought down the SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon and irrevocably damaged the reputation of Scotland’s Gender Recognition Reform Act.

However, behind the scenes and less widely discussed are loopholes in safeguarding, the framework of measures designed to protect the health, well-being and human rights of individuals in particular need of protection, including children and vulnerable adults.

Identity verification is a crucial part of safeguarding, including during the process of obtaining a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check. However, any individual can easily, and for any reason, change their name and gender on documents used to establish identity, including their passport and driving licence. But if individuals who change both name and gender can effectively sever the link with any existing records of offending, with exceptional enhanced privacy rights granted to those who change their gender, surely the resulting safeguarding loopholes compromise the DBS service?

While the government has acknowledged the safeguarding loopholes created where registered sex offenders change their name by deed poll, why do the authorities fail to address the problems created by the ability to change identity in a more fundamental way by simultaneously changing gender as well? How can rules of safeguarding be effective if they do not apply equally to everyone? Why are members of one group excused from the normal requirements of safeguarding? Or is changing gender itself a special category in need of particular and special legal and safeguarding protection?

Professor Ian Acheson
senior advisor, Counter Extremism Project; visiting professor, school of law, policing and forensics, University of Staffordshire

Dr Kate Coleman
founder and director, Keep Prisons Single Sex

Ceri-Lee Galvin
sexual abuse victim; campaigner for changes to safeguarding regulations created by exemptions for gender change perpetrators

Adam Rawcliffe
director of partnerships, Spectator; associate fellow, Academy of Ideas