JK Rowling dares police to arrest her over SNP’s new hate crime law

The author JK Rowling
JK Rowling wrote: 'Freedom of speech and belief are at an end in Scotland if the accurate description of biological sex is deemed criminal' - WireImage/Samir Hussein

JK Rowling has challenged Scotland’s police to arrest her under the SNP’s new hate crime law after stating that a series of high-profile trans women are men.

The Harry Potter author, who lives in Edinburgh, wrote on X, formerly Twitter: “Freedom of speech and belief are at an end in Scotland if the accurate description of biological sex is deemed criminal.

“I’m currently out of the country, but if what I’ve written here qualifies as an offence under the terms of the new Act, I look forward to being arrested when I return to the birthplace of the Scottish Enlightenment.”

Rowling posted pictures of 10 high-profile trans people on Twitter and mocked their claims to be women. They included Isla Bryson, who was initially sent to a women’s prison after being convicted of two rapes.

Among the others she listed was Andrew Miller, 53, who also used the name Amy George. The trans butcher abducted a young girl in the Scottish Borders while dressed as a woman and abused her for 27 hours.

The author also mentioned Katie Dolatowski, a trans paedophile who sexually assaulted a 10-year-old girl in the toilet of Morrisons in Kirkcaldy, Fife, in March  2018.

Other trans women she mentioned were Mridul Wadhwa, the chief executive of Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre:

And Munroe Bergdorf, a trans model and activist:

She also made posts about Beth Douglas, a trans activist:

Samantha Norris, a sex offender:

Guilia Valentino, a trans Gaelic footballer:

And Katie Neeves, a UN worker:

Her final post was on TV personality India Willoughby. Activists have already unsuccessfully attempted to have Rowling arrested under existing laws for “misgendering” after she publicly called Willoughby a male.

At the end of the list, she tweeted:

She invited those who agreed with her to share the post and used the hashtag #arrestme.

By passing the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act, Rowling said MSPs had “placed higher value on the feelings of men performing their idea of femaleness, however misogynistically or opportunistically, than on the rights and freedoms of actual women and girls”.

She said: “The new legislation is wide open to abuse by activists who wish to silence those of us speaking out about the dangers of eliminating women’s and girls’ single-sex spaces, the nonsense made of crime data if violent and sexual assaults committed by men are recorded as female crimes, the grotesque unfairness of allowing males to compete in female sports, the injustice of women’s jobs, honours and opportunities being taken by trans-identified men, and the reality and immutability of biological sex.”

Responding to the posts, Willoughby tweeted: “What a sad, pathetic sight. The best-known author in the world sitting up all night to write a mega-long troll post about me because she’s consumed by a hatred of trans people. Completely deranged.”

Rowling’s comments came after Siobhian Brown, the SNP’s community safety minister, initially stated that misgendering – for example calling a trans woman “he” – would “not at all” fall foul of the legislation.

But after being challenged over calls for Rowling to be prosecuted under the Act, she then admitted it would be for the police to decide.

Speaking as the Act came into force on Monday, Ms Brown said: “It could be reported and it could be investigated. Whether or not the police would think it was criminal is up to Police Scotland for that.”

The minister was also challenged over the “odd” omission of women from the list of protected groups included in the legislation.

This means threats made against Rowling and other feminists critical of trans ideology could not be investigated under the Bill. Ms Brown admitted “more work needs to be done” and said a misogyny Bill would be introduced.

Humza Yousaf oversaw the passage of the hate crime legislation at Holyrood in 2021, when he was justice secretary in Nicola Sturgeon’s government, but it has only now come into force as Police Scotland said it needed time for training.

Blower cartoon
Cartoonist Blower's take on the new law

The law creates a criminal offence of “stirring up of hatred”, expanding on a similar offence based on racist abuse that has been on the statute book for decades. It covers hatred on the basis of age, disability, race, religion, sexual orientation and transgender identity.

However, an amendment to add sex to the list of protected characteristics at this stage was voted down, despite cross-party MSPs raising concerns about why women were excluded.

Someone convicted of stirring up hate could face a fine and a prison term of up to seven years.

Justin Webb, the BBC journalist who conducted the interview with Ms Brown, was found in February to have broken impartiality rules by calling trans women “males” on air.

The BBC upheld a complaint against the Today presenter after he said “trans women, in other words males” on the BBC Radio 4 programme last August.

A listener complained that the comment amounted to Mr Webb giving his personal view on a controversial matter in breach of the BBC’s requirements on impartiality.

The new legislation’s definition of a hate crime has attracted concerns that it is too ambiguous, potentially leading to a “chilling” effect on freedom of speech and a torrent of vexatious complaints being made to police.

In particular, Rowling’s allies have suggested that trans activists have her “in their sights”. The author has regularly argued that trans women are not women and last week vowed to continue “calling a man a man” after “this ludicrous law” comes into force.

The Telegraph has also disclosed that attendees at an official Police Scotland hate crime event in February were presented with a scenario involving a character called Jo who thinks that sex is binary and bizarrely calls for transgender people to be sent to gas chambers.

Feminist groups claimed that the character was a thinly-veiled parody of Rowling, whose first name is Joanne and who is called Jo by friends.

Askd by BBC Radio 4’s Today programme whether misgendering was a crime, Ms Brown said no, adding: “We respect everybody’s freedom for expression, and nobody in our society should live in fear or be made to feel like they don’t belong.”

However, challenged over a claim by an SNP councillor that Rowling is “not entitled to make people feel uncomfortable and to misgender someone”, she then admitted that it “would be a police matter for them to assess what happens”.

Ms Brown said it would be “an operational decision” and “it would not be for me as a minister to dictate what the police” did. She said officers had received a “lot of training in the last year”, including a two-hour online course, and she believed this gave them the criteria on which to base their decision.

“There’s a very high threshold, which is in the Act, which would be up to Police Scotland, and what would have to be said online or in person would be threatening and abusive,” she said.

“If you’re conveying a personal opinion that is challenging or offensive, for example, that would not be – I would say – would not be [illegal].”

Peter Tatchell, the LGBT campaigner, told Today it was a “good thing to try and crack down on prejudice and hate” but expressed concerns that “so much of the Act does involve subjective interpretation” and was “not clearly defined”.

“There’s no definition of hate when it comes to aggravated offences. There’s no definition of malice or ill-will. Now the caveat is that it all boils down to what a reasonable person would believe,” he said.

“But of course, reasonable people believe different things. And so there is a concern that the actual interpretation or enforcement of the Act may be clouded by subjective judgments.”

Mr Tatchell added that the “big flaw” in the Scottish hate crime legislation was it “does not protect women against hate” and there was “no protection against misogyny.”

Peter Tatchell at LGBT protest
Peter Tatchell expressed concerns that 'so much of the Act does involve subjective interpretation' - Jamie Lorriman

Jim Sillars, the SNP’s former deputy leader, has launched a campaign to “resist the Hate Crime Act and campaign for its repeal”.

He said: “Humza Yousaf’s Hate Crime Act inflicts a deep wound on the face of Scottish society. Today, on their own admission, Police Scotland will translate itself from a service into a force for one particular purpose, the pursuit of people who speak their minds. How has Scotland, the seat of the Enlightenment, come to this?”

Mr Yousaf claimed the legislation was needed thanks to “a rising tide of hatred against the people because of their protected characteristics”.

The First Minister told Sky News he “couldn’t disagree more” with a warning from the Scottish Police Federation that the Act was a “recipe for disaster”.

He said: “Of course, there has been appropriate training in place, but also police officers have been dealing with hatred for many, many decades and been doing it very sensibly. indeed.”

Mr Yousaf said there had been an offence of stirring up racial hatred since 1986 and there was “absolutely no evidence” to support warnings that there would be a large increase in the number of vexatious complaints.

“Unless your behaviour is threatening or abusive and intends to stir up hatred, then you have nothing to worry about in terms of the new offence that has been created,” he said.

“If your behaviour is threatening or abusive and does intend to stir up hatred against Jews, or Muslims, or disabled people or gay people, then I think the law should protect those people, who are the victims of that potential hatred.”

Asked about Rowling’s case, and her allies’ argument that she was not being “hateful”, he said the police would investigate if a crime had been committed and the Crown Office would decide “if there is a sufficiency of evidence to charge”.

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