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Police Scotland visited the home of a charity boss to ‘ascertain her thinking’ after she cut ties with a ‘trans inclusive’ rape crisis centre following remarks by its trans woman and ex-SNP candidate chief executive.
Nicola Murray, 42, was reported to police after saying her charity would stop referring clients to the Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre because of inflammatory comments made about victims of sexual violence.
However, Police Scotland has now been accused of ‘thought crimes’ after interviewing Ms Murray, the founder of the Brodie’s Trust charity which supports women who have suffered pregnancy loss through domestic violence or forced termination.
Mridul Wadhwa, a trans former SNP parliamentary candidate who was appointed chief executive of the rape centre last year, said victims of sexual violence should be ‘challenged on their prejudices’ if they expressed ‘bigoted’ views during a podcast appearance.
She subsequently issued a partial retraction, but Police Scotland turned up at Ms Murray’s home to question her about a tweet in which she emphasised the female-only nature of her charity’s support services.
Ms Murray had described Ms Wadhwa’s comments as ‘deeply concerning’, adding her charity would no longer signpost women to the centre as a result.
A Facebook post on the charity’s page said: ‘Due to deeply concerning comments made by the current CEO of ERCC we have taken the decision to no longer signpost to this service. We cannot in all conscience send vulnerable women to the service in its current state.’
‘We remain a female only service, run by women for women and will not be intimidated into changing our stance on this matter, considering our support group is for those who’ve experienced pregnancy loss through domestic abuse.’
Ms Murray told The Times she was left ‘shocked and panicky’ after officers arrived at her house near Perth the following month.
She claimed police wanted to ‘ascertain her thinking’ behind the tweet, despite admitting she had not committed an offence.
Campaign group Fair Play for Women has now submitted a complaint to the Equality and Human Rights Commission regarding remarks made by Assistant Chief Constable Gary Ritchie.
Nicola Murray, the founder of the Brodie’s Trust charity which supports women who have suffered pregnancy loss through domestic violence or forced termination, said she was ‘shocked’ when officers arrived at her house
Mridul Wadhwa, a trans former SNP parliamentary candidate, was appointed chief executive of the Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre last year
Mridul Wadhwa’s remarks that sexual violence victims should be ‘challenged on their prejudices’ if they expressed ‘bigoted’ view
During an appearance as a guest on the The Guilty Feminist podcast, Ms Wadhwa said victims of sexual violence should be ‘challenged on their prejudices’ if they expressed ‘bigoted’ views.
She added: ‘But I think the other thing is that sexual violence happens to bigoted people as well. And so, you know, it is not discerning crime. But these spaces are also for you.
‘But if you bring unacceptable beliefs that are discriminatory in nature, we will begin to work with you on your journey of recovery from trauma.
‘But please also expect to be challenged on your prejudices, because how can you heal from trauma and build a new relationship with your trauma, because you can’t forget, and you can’t go back to life before traumatic incident or traumatic incidents.’
In an earlier statement defending the actions of Police Scotland, he said ‘hate crime and discrimination of any kind is deplorable and entirely unacceptable’ – interpreted by some as a criticism of Ms Murray.
Nicola Williams, director of the campaign group, said the senior officer’s statement was ‘inaccurate and misleading’.
Fair Play for Women claims his remarks are a breach of a legal obligation to ‘promote understanding’ between protected groups, which includes trans people and women, under the Equality Act.
Ms Williams added that the charity is permitted to discriminate under the Act, including excluding trans people from certain settings, on the basis it is a ‘proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim’.
In a letter to the watchdog posted on the campaign group’s website, she said: ‘Police misrepresenting the law in this way is a serious matter.
‘The idea that service providers are in any way deplorable and acting unlawfully is likely to foster bad relations between potential service users who are included and those who are excluded, as well as fostering bad relations with the service provider itself.
‘I therefore request that EHRC urgently advises Police Scotland to publicly withdraw its statement that “any kind of discrimination is deplorable and entirely unacceptable” and to make clear that discrimination on the grounds of sex can indeed be lawful and wholly necessary and appropriate in some circumstances.’
It comes amid an ongoing wider debate between trans rights campaigners and gender-critical feminists regarding safe spaces for women.
What are gender critical views?
Gender critical views refer to a belief that someone’s sex, whether they are male or female, is biological and cannot be conflated with a person’s gender identity – whether they identify as a man or a woman.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said following an employment tribunal last year that ‘gender critical’ views should be considered a philosophical belief and protected under law.
Former University of Sussex professor Kathleen Stock was ousted from her role after she called for safe spaces for women in her academic writing.
She called for spaces where women undress and sleep to remain genuinely single-sex in order to protect their safety.
The professor said she was protecting women by warning against policies that allow men to ‘self-identify as female’, but was pressured into resigning last year amid a flurry of death threats from students.
Essex University was also found to have failed to uphold free speech after two female professors who hold similar views, Jo Phoenix and Rosa Freedman, were dropped from speaking events last year.
Harry Potter author JK Rowling has been criticised for expressing concerns over transgender access to women-only spaces.
In an essay in 2020, she wrote about her concerns that ‘the new trans activism’ was eroding women and girls’ rights to single-sex spaces by ‘offering cover to predators’.
Her comments were met with fury that she was encouraging discrimination and hate crimes.
Lisa Townsend, elected Conservative Police and Commissioner for Surrey last year, said she was inundated with emails and messages from women frightened that female-only spaces, including women’s refuges and toilets, were being opened up to people who ‘identify’ as women even if they have male genitalia.
So-called ‘gender critical’ beliefs are protected in law, but expressing them publicly risks harassment from transgender activists, who claim it is transphobic and hateful that a person who identifies as female should be denied access to such a space.
Charity bosses have also opposed tightening rules on single-sex spaces.
In written evidence to a Commons select committee in 2020, Survivors’ Network executive Jay Breslaw said the charity ‘strongly feel that the use of women-only spaces by trans women should be actively encouraged’.