Men making victims use female pronouns in court ~ petition(78 Posts)
Arising from the outrage after Maria Mac was obliged to call Tanis "Tara" Wolf a woman in court, some of us have composed a letter to the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office.
So far 372 people (both sexes) have signed it, including Maria. If you wish to add your name, please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org
This is the current draft (we are still making tiny weaks).
We, the undersigned, are writing to express our concern at the conduct of the District Judge in the above matter.
This case was a charge of assault by beating. The defendant was a 26-year-old man, of approximately 6 feet tall, who violently attacked a small, slight, 60-year-old woman, the witness referred to below. In court, however, the defendant, through his legal representative, indicated that, although he does not have a Gender Recognition Certificate indicating that he has changed gender, he now self-identifies as a woman and wishes to be referred to by female pronouns (she and her).
When a witness takes the oath, they swear or affirm to tell the truth. It is therefore imperative that they make statements in their own words and to the extent of their beliefs. There is no negative judgement or inference in using the terms, man, woman, he, she. These are neutral, factual terms.
When the witness commenced her evidence, she naturally referred to the defendant as he, as he is a man, because it was clearly a man who attacked her, and remains to this day physically and legally male. She was quickly informed by counsel that the defendant wished to be referred to as a woman. She did her best to comply and referred to him as 'the defendant' twice. She was then asked to watch a video of the assault, during which she was asked further questions and she inadvertently slipped back into referring to the defendant as 'he'. At this point the judge stopped the witness’s evidence and reminded her to refer to the defendant as she and her.
This raises several issues:
1. The witness had taken an oath to tell the truth. By requiring her to use female pronouns to describe an assault that she had experienced as a man beating her, the judge was forcing the witness to recount inaccurate testimony. The witness attempted to comply, as to ignore a direction from the judge could carry a charge of contempt of court, but this proved unsustainable as she recalled the beating.
2. Trying to remember to use incorrect terminology may have affected the quality of the witness’s evidence. Indeed, the judge, in his judgement, mentioned negatively her failure to use female pronouns every single time. Despite her attempts to comply with the judge’s direction, he accused her of ‘behaving with bad grace’. Other witnesses also referred to the defendant as male, and yet were not admonished.
3. It can never be acceptable for a judge to tell a victim of a violent, unprovoked assault that her accurate recall of the incident is anything other than good witness testimony. That this appears to have diminished the severity of the sentence is particularly demoralising as, later that day, the defendant boasted on his social media account that he had ‘won’ the case because the fine was low.
4. The broader question in relation to such a judicial direction is that the quality of witness evidence will inevitably be affected. If a witness is having to recount an event truthfully, but then lie about the sex of the defendant, because he choses to ‘present’ on that day as a member of the opposite sex, this will create confusion for the witness, the court and the transcript.
5. Forcing a witness to alter their witness testimony on the basis that the defendant later requested the court to recognise a new identity could lead to the unconscionable situation where a rape victim is directed to speak of her male rapist as if he were a woman, if he so demanded. Such a direction would be extremely abusive for the victim.
We are aware that S12 of the Equal Treatment Bench Book, provided to judges and magistrates gives guidance regarding how to address transgender defendants in court. We are not aware of any such requirement of witnesses, who are required to tell the truth, which in this case was that a man attacked a woman.
Giving evidence in court can be a challenging and intimidating process, without having to rethink the wording of one’s evidence to use words that distort the genuine recall of events. In directing the witness testimony in this way, to suit someone who exhibited abusive and violent tendencies towards the victim, this judge materially affected the quality of the witness’ evidence which is not in the interests of justice.
Further, we refer you to paragraphs 13, 14 and 15 of the Introduction to the Equal Treatment Bench Book, which places a requirement on judges to place themselves in the position of those giving evidence and accept that their culture, experiences and knowledge may affect their evidence, and this should be respected, considering the daunting and unnerving experience of appearing in court. In our view, the judge failed to apply this to the victim of the violence but rather directed her to comply with the wishes of the man who had attacked her.
We request that you investigate this matter to see whether justice has been compromised in this case by the judge's action in a) misdirecting the victim b) thereby confusing her and compromising the quality of the evidence she was able to give and c) in taking into account her occasional accidental failure to follow his instruction to use female pronouns and using it to mitigate the sentence awarded to the defendant.
We further ask that you provide further guidance to judges, and indeed magistrates, that they should not interfere with witnesses’ evidence, other than with regard to questions of law.
Message withdrawn at poster's request.
(small typo: 'choses')
It looks like a great letter Artemis and one I'd be happy to sign - but how do we check the bona fides of the email address in your OP (sorry, feeling jumpy in the light of the Mumsnet mole thread)?
I'll sign a petition if there's one on Change dot org.
But II'm not emailing you my details, I dont know you at all.
AND as a non-resident in Britain (born and raised in South America)? I don't think I can, but I fully support the petition.
feeling jumpy in the light of the Mumsnet mole thread
What thread is that?
We accept names from non-UK people because if they visit the UK and end up in court they will be subject to these rulings, too.
We could not do this on a change.org because some women will not sign if their names are publicly exposed. Therefore the collection of names was put into the hands of just ONE person, who is keeping a secret Word doc, and after these names are added to the letter to the Judiciary Complaints Board, the doc will be deleted.
There isn't anything I can do if you don't trust the CATT group, its founder, or its email address. It just means you won't get a chance to sign the letter, but that's not a problem because, since Sunday, 355 have signed on your behalf, including Maria MacLachlan, Anne Ruzylo, Julie Bindel, Miranda Yardley, OBJECT, and others well known in this "resistance movement".
Oooh I have had an idea ... if you don't trust the CATT group email address just send your name to Maria Mac and she will email it to us. Sorted!
Excellent suggestion - yes, I am prepared to contact Maria
I did look you up before I sent my email!
I’ll sign a government petition.
Go and start one then and I will sign it, and Tweet it and Facebook it.
I think I've signed, it gets a bit tricky when you use different names for different things. Believe it or not, my actual name is not Ancient Lights...
The comment I would make about the excellent letter is whether you could beef up the bit about Maria having watched the video of the assault & then referred to TW as 'he'. I think TW was wearing what we could call 'male clothing' for the assault, wasn't he? At least, not dressed like he was in the photos outside the court. Therefore, it seems even more unreasonable to expect someone to remember to use female pronouns when she is upset by having to relive this bad experience.
Cheers, Ancient. Yes I think I had an email from you.
"By requiring her to use female pronouns to describe an assault that she had experienced as a man beating her ..."
an assault by a male who is physically and legally a male and was dressed in jeans and hoody at the time of attack but wears make up and a dress to court.
I think he was wearing leggings not jeans at Hyde Park and not sure if a dress in court possibly trews and a top?
Comment on text noted thanks.
It is the precedent that this states, that future rape victims can be accused of contempt of court for misgendering their abusers. The fear and pain of recounting a horrific assault whilst having to police there own language in case the accusers is offended is horrific.
In another thread people were talking about how it's pretty much always possible to tell male from female even if they dress the same have same hairstyles etc. Adult men have a different physical structure to women (archaeologists can tell a male from a female skeleton). The judge asking her to call the defendant 'she' and 'her' is a bit similar to asking someone when recounting a story about a cat to constantly call it a dog. It would be confusing and unsettling even if it wasn't otherwise an emotional experience. Add in the emotion when you've been attacked by someone massively bigger and stronger than you and requiring you to do this just seems abusive.
Honestly, it really seems to me to enforce pronouns which don't match with your experience and your 60+years use of English is coercion. Again, in another thread someone said coercion is against the law - is this true?
I'd refuse - whatever the penalty. I'd take it to the papers, etc.
Astonishing that women have been hounded into being frightened of reprisals for signing a letter standing up for women like this. It's not right.
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