The police force that warned social media users against making “hateful” comments towards a convicted, transgender paedophile is at the forefront of “woke” policies such as gender-neutral warrant cards.
Sussex Police scrapped warrant cards that identified male officers with the letters A or C and female officers with B or D in November last year. The move prompted complaints that it would make it harder to find a female officer to carry out duties only a woman could do - such as searching a female suspect.
The force was also subject to ridicule in 2017 after a sergeant warned high street stores that “feminine care” signs on women’s sanitary products breached gender equality rules.
But the row over the conviction of Sally Ann Dixon, a transgender woman who was a man when they carryied out a series of child sex attacks, threatens to engulf the force.
Local commissioner condemns her own force
The local crime commissioner condemned her own force on Wednesday night for “prioritising the hurt feelings” of a convicted transgender paedophile over the trauma suffered by their victims.
The controversy over Sussex Police’s handling of the case has continued to spiral after the force warned social media users not to “misgender” the sex offender who identified as a woman.
Dixon, 58, from Havant, Hampshire, was jailed for 20 years for the sexual abuse of seven children between 1989 to 1996. At the time of the offences, Dixon was a man called John.
AFter Dixon#s conviction, Sussex Police issued a press statement headlined: “Woman convicted of historic offences against children in Sussex”. But when on Twitter, users complained that Dixon was a man when the crimes were convicted, the force responded: “Sussex Police do not tolerate any hateful comments towards their gender identity regardless of crimes committed.”
On Wednesday night, Katy Bourne, the Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner, said she was “disappointed” that the successful prosecution of Dixon for historical offences had been “completely overshadowed by the fallout from an unnecessary and tone deaf tweet”.
Heaping pressure on the force, Ms Bourne added: “It is particularly upsetting after hearing the harrowing testimony of Dixon’s victims.
“Police… must balance their communications so that they don’t appear to be prioritising the hurt feelings of criminals over the trauma and heartache of victims and their families.”
Police had ‘somewhat lost the plot’
Ms Bourne contacted Jo Shiner, Sussex’s chief constable, to make it clear that police “had somewhat lost the plot” in voicing opinions "that appeared to ignore or demean the experiences of the victims in this case”.
Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary, accused Sussex Police of playing “identity politics”, shortly after writing to all chief constables telling them to reverse the perception they care more about “woke” issues than tackling crime.
Sussex Police withdrew its offending tweet and issued an apology. In a statement issued late on Tuesday night, the force said: “An earlier reply to a comment on Twitter was inconsistent with our usual style of engagement; we apologise for this and have removed the comment.
“We recognise the rights of the public to express themselves freely within the boundaries of the law.”
Dixon abused five girls and two boys aged between six and 15 during the seven-year period of abuse. The offender was sentenced to serve time in a female prison having begun transitioning in 2004.
Dixon was convicted of 30 indecent assaults and given an indefinite sexual harm prevention order. All the offences took place in Crawley in West Sussex, and Bexhill and Icklesham in East Sussex.