Exclusive: Police forces threatened with legal action over links to Stonewall

Police forces have been threatened with legal action over their links to Stonewall, amid concerns the controversial charity’s transgender training is impacting their impartiality.

Campaigners have written to chief constables warning they will begin legal proceedings against any force that remains part of the Stonewall Diversity Champions scheme beyond a "period of consideration".

Some 250 public authorities, including about half of police forces in England and Wales, pay at least £2,500 a year for advice on gender-neutral facilities and pronouns, which leading barristers have said "misrepresents" the 2010 Equality Act.

At least three forces have quit in recent years, it has emerged, as a string of major employers including the Ministry of Justice, Ofsted, the equalities watchdog EHRC and Channel 4 cut ties.

Dorset Police left in 2020 as part of a review "linked to wider work on equality and inclusivity"; the Civil Nuclear Constabulary quit the same year on cost grounds; whilst North Wales Police said its decision was made before 2019 and was not linked to concerns over the guidance.

Conflict of interest concern

Now in a letter to police chiefs, seen by The Telegraph, former constable Harry Miller has warned forces that their affiliation with Stonewall breaches police rules on political activity and association with groups that could create a conflict of interest.

Mr Miller, head of the campaign group Fair Cop, wrote: "It is now beyond reasonable doubt that any association, formal or otherwise, with Stonewall is a violation of The Code [of Ethics].

"[This is] given that reasonable members of the public perceive an actual or apparent conflict of interest with police work and responsibilities, such that it creates the impression that the police are not able to discharge their duties impartially.

"Fair Cop will issue Pre Action letters to any force which remains in the Stonewall Champion’s Scheme following a period of consideration."

The Telegraph understands that two forces are currently investigating officers’ use of Twitter accounts to push Stonewall’s trans stance, including one tweet that said it had "reported" users’ comments deemed "hateful" towards trans and non-binary people.

Stonewall guidance for forces urges officers to consider if saying "Sir and Ma’am" or referring to constables by their rank is always appropriate for non-binary people. Forces should be flexible about gendered shoulder numbers in uniforms and allow two warrant cards for "gender-fluid" officers, it says.

Both Sussex Police and Leicestershire Police, the latter of which has paid the charity £14,500 since 2014, appear on Stonewall’s index of top 100 employers.

The Metropolitan Police – which failed to make it on to the equality league for 2020 despite paying £12,815 in fees over the past two years – noted in a feedback review that it should use Stonewall to review "all HR policies".

Ministry of Justice leading ‘exodus’

The pressure comes as the Ministry of Justice is leading an "exodus" of Government departments from Stonewall, with Justice Secretary Robert Buckland understood to be concerned about its "dubious" training and approach to free speech.

A Stonewall spokesperson said that "organisations come and go" from their Diversity Champions programme, but it is "continuing to grow" with 30 organisations joining in the past year.

They said they are "confident in our advice on the Equality Act" and "very proud" of their work with member companies.

Deputy chief constable Julie Cooke, National Police Chiefs’ council lead for the LGBT+ portfolio, said that they were "aware" of the threat of legal action and will "consider its content".

"Decisions over what programmes and schemes police forces sign up to is a matter for each individual force," she said.

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