A pensioner was questioned by police for a “hate incident” after taking a picture of a sticker that said “keep males out of women-only spaces”.
The retired social worker was looking at a transgender flag-themed poster in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, which carried the slogan “stand by your trans”.
A sticker had been placed on top of the poster that said “keep males out of women-only spaces”, referring to transgender women who are born male.
But the 73-year-old was left shocked when, several days after she took a picture of the sticker, officers from West Yorkshire Police turned up at her home and recorded it as a non-crime hate incident (NCHI).
The woman, who did not want to be named out of fear of reprisal from activists, told the Mail on Sunday: “They gave me a long lecture about the sensitivity of the issue, and how something like this could cause harassment and alarm to the community.
“They were investigating it as a hate crime, which is outrageous. I was in a state of shock.”
She added: “I think they wanted to correct my thinking. They are getting involved in a very divided and toxic debate, but it’s not their role to arbitrate political disagreements.
“I felt as if they were trying to gag a dissenting voice by harassing me in my own home.”
She insisted that she did not place the sticker on the poster and that officers had identified her from CCTV footage.
She had previously written to the group behind the poster, Happy Valley Pride, with concerns about allowing transgender women into female-only spaces.
The police log, which she obtained through a subject access request, said officers had given her “words of advice … regards the harassment and alarm that this sticker could potentially cause to the community”.
Harry Miller, a former police officer who founded the free speech group Fair Cop after being subject to an NCHI himself, accused the officers of “thought policing”.
He said: “How can a woman photographing a sticker cause alarm and distress to the Happy Valley Pride community? There is politically correct rot at the heart of West Yorkshire policing.”
Earlier this year, Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary, unveiled plans to ban police from recording NCHIs just because someone is offended.
She endorsed new guidance that requires officers to prioritise freedom of expression over offensive, controversial or derogatory language that upsets people.
Officers will be restricted to recording only incidents that are motivated by intentional hostility and pose a real risk of escalating into significant harm.
It aims to reduce the number of NCHIs, with 120,000 people recorded in the past five years.
They include cases such as a Bedfordshire man who ended up with a police file for whistling the theme tune to Bob the Builder at his neighbour, who perceived racial hatred.
West Yorkshire Police has been contacted for comment.
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