Open letter to Sussex Police
I am writing to you as Executive Director of Fair Cop, a human rights organisation comprised of serving and former police officers, barristers, lawyers and parliamentarians. We are committed to monitoring the actions of British police forces in relation to hate crime, hate incidents and free expression and, to this end, we have sought and been granted a Judicial Review at the High Court against both Humberside Police and The College of Policing, which will be heard in November.
We have been made aware of a demonstration outside a meeting of Women’s Place UK in Brighton on the evening of 23.09.19. While we have no objection to reasonable, lawful protest, the footage we have witnessed appears to evidence a Section 5 Public Order Offence in that ‘threatening, abusive and insulting words and behaviour’ were directly targeted at a protected group. We would go further and suggest that Section 4 offences were also in evidence, in that the actions of the demonstrating group involved threatening behaviour intended to cause attendees at the meeting to fear violence.
The College of Policing Hate Crime Operational Guidance states in 1.2.3. that the perception of the victim or any other person is the defining factor in determining whether an incident is a hate incident or in recognising the hostility element in a hate crime. We are therefore writing to you today to report a hate incident against women and to ask what steps the police will be taking to investigate, especially given that officers were present and took no steps to protect a vulnerable group – who are protected under the Equality Act – from acts of intimidation and threats.
As videos taken inside the venue show, the noise was deafening, intimidating, and frightening, with speakers struggling to have their voices heard. The pinned tweet on @SXP_LGBT states ‘we have zero tolerance on hate crime.’ We applaud such a statement; however, we would expect this unequivocal stance to be applied without fear or favour across all groups afforded protection by the Equality Act. On the evidence of last night, this does not appear to be the case.
Fair Cop is deeply concerned by Sussex Police’s failure to act against an aggressive and intimidating mob who were targeting a protected group meeting to discuss their rights. We believe that any reasonable observer would view this as extremely partisan policing; furthermore, we suggest that the lack of intervention is the direct result of Sussex Police’s extremely close relationship with Stonewall, an organisation that has consistently demeaned and abused women for daring to meet and discuss their sex-based rights. At the very least, this gives the impression of a political interest aligned with the demonstrators at the WPUK event last night. At worst, it suggests collusion. Either way, it is a clear breach of Schedule 1 Restrictions which, let us remind you, state:
‘A member of the police force shall at all times abstain from any activity which is likely to interfere with the impartial discharge of duties or which is likely to give rise to the impression among members of the public that it may so interfere.’
Your relationship with Stonewall and the woefully inadequate response to the events of yesterday evening give rise to the impression that these two positions are not unconnected.
We look forward to receiving your thoughts on the above. An inadequate response will result in further action including our organisation seeking a further Judicial Review.
Executive Director, Fair Cop