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PCC Breached Code of Conduct When Quoting J K Rowling in Transgender Tweet

Published on: 16 Mar, 2022
Updated on: 16 Mar, 2022

PCC Lisa Townsend Photo Darren Pepe

By Julie Armstrong

local democracy reporter

Surrey’s Police and Crime Commissioner has been reprimanded for sharing a tweet from J K Rowling about “men who keep telling us they are women”. It was found that she had breached the PCC code of conduct.

Lisa Townsend retweeted the Harry Potter author’s tweet that implied biologically male rapists are not female, and tweeted the hashtag #IStandWithJKRowling.

Crispin Blunt MP

Reigate MP Crispin Blunt and two others reported her to Surrey County Council’s police and crime panel, which holds the police and crime commissioner (PCC) to account.

Their complaints sub-committee last week found the language she used breached her office’s code of conduct.

Ms Townsend, who noted she received their decision on International Women’s Day, said it was “quite sinister” that the three men who reported her had tried to shut down the debate.

It is not the first time her comments about transgender issues have sparked complaints, but in November she was cleared of any breach.

This time the complaints stemmed from a tweet from the Harry Potter author in December that shared a Sunday Times article reporting Police Scotland will log rapes committed by offenders with male genitalia as being perpetrated by a woman, if the attacker ‘insists’ on identifying as female.

J K Rowling Wikimedia

J K Rowling suggested she thought this was absurd, borrowing from George Orwell’s 1984 in her tweet: “War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength. The Penised Individual Who Raped You Is a Woman.”

This was retweeted and supported by Ms Townsend with the comment: “It’s not a ‘niche’ issue, it’s not ‘hysterical’ of women to be taking to the streets about it. We will not accept this gaslighting from men who keep telling us they are women, or from those who enable them. #IStandWithJKRowling”.

Her tweet was liked nearly 2,000 times and attracted more than 80 comments, a mix of both thankful and critical.

The PCC’s code of conduct obliges her to use language that treats others with dignity and respect, and the sub-committee was split over whether they thought her tweet had done this.

A majority found that the words “gaslighting from men who keep telling us they are women” were not dignified or respectful.

Some members, however, considered it was not disrespectful when read in the context of the article.

The code of conduct does not apply when the PCC is acting in a purely private capacity.

But the sub-committee found this had not been the case since she had tweeted from an account that clearly identifies her as Surrey Police and Crime Commissioner.

The mostly male sub-committee has asked the Tory PCC to write an ‘explanatory letter’ to the three men who complained about her.

Surrey’s PCC Lisa Townsend interviewed on GB News on March 13. Image GB News

Conservative MP Mr Blunt, who is chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on global LGBT+ rights, tweeted: “I am glad the panel agree with me about the need to take the heat out of this fraught debate.

“I am happy to have frank conversations with colleagues from both sides but it is important that any debate is led by the evidence not myths and fear.

“The panel’s recommendations are clear: PCCs have every right to express their views, however, as an elected official they have a legal duty to engage in a manner that is respectful and upholds the dignity of all their electors.”

Cllr David Lewis

Cllr David Lewis (Con, Cobham) responded: “Your actions against Lisa Townsend are a disgrace. Lisa has the confidence of Conservatives in Surrey. She was supporting a view which is held by a vast number people and you should take the heat out of the debate by withdrawing your complaint.”

Appearing on GB News on Sunday, Ms Townsend said: “We’ve found ourselves in this slightly odd space where speaking truth is seen as controversial and those of us who do get called bigots and suffer all of the bile that goes with that.”

Having different views on the subject was healthy, she said, adding: “What’s not healthy and what’s actually quite sinister is when people try to shut down the debate and that’s exactly what these men were trying to do.”

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Responses to PCC Breached Code of Conduct When Quoting J K Rowling in Transgender Tweet

  1. John Perkins Reply

    March 17, 2022 at 10:20 am

    For once I agree with Lisa Townsend.

    Crispin Blunt, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global LGBT+ Rights, says that he is “happy to have frank conversations”, yet clearly only if all the words are chosen by him.

    He goes on to say the debate should not be led by “myths and fear”. What is so mythical about the rape of women by those claiming not to be men? It is a matter of fact and women have every right to be fearful of it.

    As for the words “gaslighting from men who keep telling us they are women” not being dignified or respectful, consider how they compare to an actual rape.

  2. Stuart Barnes Reply

    March 18, 2022 at 8:56 am

    As Lisa Townsend says “speaking truth is seen as controversial”.

    What sort of world are we creating for our children?

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