So could I please stop writing things like that?

Good; it’s in the Spectator. James Kirkup as usual.

Margaret Nelson is a 74-year-old woman who lives in a village in Suffolk. On Monday morning she was woken by a telephone call. It was an officer from Suffolk police. The officer wanted to speak to Mrs Nelson about her Twitter account and her blog.

Mrs Nelson, a former humanist celebrant and one-time local newspaper journalist, enjoys tweeting and writing about a number of issues, including the legal and social distinctions between sex and gender.

Among the statements she made on Twitter last month and which apparently concerned that police officer: ‘Gender is BS. Pass it on’.


‘Gender’s fashionable nonsense. Sex is real. I’ve no reason to feel ashamed of stating the truth. The bloody annoying ones are those who use words like ‘cis’ or ‘terf’ and other BS, and relegate biological women to a ‘subset’. Sorry you believe the mythology.’

Welp, I agree with all of that, so I’ll probably never be allowed into the UK again.

What’s next? Passage of actual laws mandating agreement with claims that men who say they “identify as” women literally are women? How much is 2 + 2, Winston?

Then there was the shock-horror blog post about sexing corpses.

Mrs Nelson told me this about the call from the police:

‘The officer said she wanted to talk to me about some of the things I’d written on Twitter and my blog. She said that some of the things that I’d written could have upset or offended transgender people. So could I please stop writing things like that and perhaps I could remove those posts and tweets?’

‘I asked the officer if she agreed that free speech was important. She said it was. I said that in that case, she’d understand that I wouldn’t be removing the posts or stopping saying the things I think. She accepted that and that was the end of the conversation.’

I can’t even imagine how enraged I would be if I got a phone call like that from the police. I imagine spontaneous combustion. Maybe this is a provocateur operation? The cop is a double agent?

Mrs Nelson, of course, is not the only person to have been treated in such a way. Last month, Harry Miller, a businessman in Lincolnshire received a call from Humberside Police about what the force considered a potential ‘hate incident’. Mr Miller had tweeted about transgender issues and, like Mrs Nelson, had questioned the assertion that someone born with a male body can become a woman on the basis of their proclaimed gender identity. There are other similar cases too, where the police have interviewed people for saying things that are alleged to have caused upset and distress to transgender people.

Maybe it’s all Adrian Harrop’s doing. He spends hours every day tagging various law enforcement bodies in on his complaints about non-compliant tweets about gender. He longs to see terfs locked up for resisting.

There are many practical and factual questions that arise from cases like these.

Why are the police acting in this way? What training have officers received in relation to transgender issues, and from whom? Are some people or organisations deliberately and vexatiously exploiting some police forces’ stance on this issue to instigate police action against people who say things they do not like? Could such police actions exert a chilling effect on the expression of opinion on transgender issues? Isn’t it possible that some people will now think ‘I’d best not say what I think about sex and gender, or the police might get involved?’

There are also some questions of principle.

Is it the job of police officers to act in such a way? To police private, lawful expressions of opinion, simply because some people complain that they find those expressions of opinion upsetting or unkind? What are the police for?

There are also some “why” questions about why this, why now, why so fast, why so bonkers, why so overkill?


Shortly after this piece was published, Suffolk Police sent me a statement effectively admitting that they made a mistake by calling Mrs Nelson. A Suffolk Constabulary spokesman said:

“We accept we made a misjudgement in following up a complaint regarding the blog. As a result of this we will be reviewing our procedures for dealing with such matters. We are sorry for any distress we may have caused in the way this issue was dealt with, and have been in contact with the woman who wrote the blog to apologise.”

Which is, I suppose, a good thing and the force should be commended for admitting its mistake and apologising. But there are still questions that remain unanswered. One of them: why on earth did anyone ever think that this was the right thing to do in the first place? 

Very much so. Yes, they made a “misjudgement,” but why? It’s a bit like saying we made a misjudgement when we sliced that random person in pieces with a machete and we will be reviewing our procedures. It’s good as far as it goes but that’s not very far.

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