Crime Statistics: Gender Identity - Question

– in the House of Lords at 3:23 pm on 24 April 2024.

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Photo of Baroness Fox of Buckley Baroness Fox of Buckley Non-affiliated 3:23, 24 April 2024

To ask His Majesty’s Government whether they plan to issue guidance on data to be collected throughout the criminal justice system by sex, as registered at birth, not gender identity, to ensure consistency of crime statistics across England and Wales.

Photo of Lord Roborough Lord Roborough Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

Home Office guidance states that police forces should record an individual’s sex in the legal sense that is based on their birth certificate or gender recognition certificate. Separately, an individual’s gender identity can be collected. The Government have commissioned an independent review into the recording of data on biological sex and gender identity by public bodies and in research. The review is due to report in August and will inform our future approach to recording.

Photo of Baroness Fox of Buckley Baroness Fox of Buckley Non-affiliated

I am glad to hear from the Minister, who I know is sincere on this, that the Government are taking this seriously, because accurate statistics are vital for evidence-based criminal justice policy. First, can I press the Minister to agree that, at present, official crime data is not accurate, credible or consistent? FoI requests to countrywide police forces reveal that they use a wide variety of differing recording practices; commonly record self-declared gender identity instead of birth sex, which is not the same as on your birth certificate; and that suspected and even convicted male rapists are recorded as female if they say that they are women.

Secondly, does such dubious data undermine public trust in the believability of crime figures, and hinder voters in informed debates about criminal justice? This is especially important in the lead-up to the elections for local police and crime commissioners.

Photo of Lord Roborough Lord Roborough Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, in answer to these concerns, the Government have recently commissioned Professor Alice Sullivan to conduct an independent review of data collection on biological sex and gender in research and statistics within public bodies. This will report back by August 2024. The Home Office will thoroughly review Professor Sullivan’s findings when they are available, and will take any necessary action to ensure accuracy with regard to police statistics.

The Home Office annual data requirement for police custody, ADR 149, which is a mandatory collection, requires police forces to record the sex of detainees. In providing data to compile the Home Office’s homicide index, police forces are required to record a suspect’s sex—male, female or not known. The suspect’s gender is recorded separately, and only if it is different from their sex.

Photo of Lord Sandhurst Lord Sandhurst Conservative

My Lords, anyone, including a convicted criminal, can change name and gender, and then obtain a new passport and driving licence and, in effect, change identity for most practical purposes. Ordinarily, in the case of persons who have changed gender, the DBS certificate will display their acquired gender. Is my noble friend the Minister satisfied that it is not possible for a passport and driving licence to be reissued to show the new name and acquired gender—thereby to be presented by the holder to defeat an effective DBS check?

Photo of Lord Roborough Lord Roborough Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, the Government are satisfied with the steps they are taking. Some offenders, including sex offenders, are required to notify their personal details to the police, with a record of their national insurance number as well as their name, date of birth and bank details. It is a criminal offence not to notify the authorities. Similar provisions apply to registered violent offenders and terrorists. Additionally, the police may place flags with His Majesty’s Passport Office on offenders deemed to pose a risk to the public. Where a registered sex offender notified to HMPO in this manner applies for a passport, or to change their name, HMPO will consult the police before any passport is issued or name change agreed.

Photo of Baroness Burt of Solihull Baroness Burt of Solihull Liberal Democrat

My Lords, would changing the whole system of crime recording, throughout the criminal justice system, not involve an inordinate amount of effort for very little return? I take the point the Minister made about an investigatory review of how recording is done, and I welcome that. Would it not also contravene the Equality Act 2010 and the human rights of anyone with a gender recognition certificate? Does the Minister agree with me that the whole criminal justice system should have other priorities on how it spends its limited resources?

Photo of Lord Roborough Lord Roborough Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, I see no reason why this needs to contradict the Equality Act, which is clear: it provides protection against discrimination, harassment and victimisation across a number of grounds known as the protected characteristics. We are committed to upholding Britain’s long-standing record of protecting the rights of individuals against unlawful discrimination. We keep any uncommenced provisions in the Act under review, and we are confident that the review that we have commissioned—reporting by August—will be consistent with the law.

Photo of Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Shadow Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Fox, has raised this question on a number of occasions, and the Minister’s answer has been similar, where he has pointed to reviews by the UK Statistics Authority and other experts. Does the Minister agree with me that the issue of data collection goes wider than sex and gender identity? I am thinking particularly of how one’s parentage is recorded, when there are mothers, fathers, sperm donors, egg donors and birth mothers. This is a live issue, where one’s parentage is recorded. Will the UK statistics review take into account these additional complicating factors when considering how data is recorded and presented?

Photo of Lord Roborough Lord Roborough Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, while I am grateful for the noble Lord’s question, it requires more detail and goes beyond the brief that I have today, so I will write to him.

Photo of Baroness Hoey Baroness Hoey Non-affiliated

My Lords, I welcome the review, and we all look forward to the results in August. Can the Minister tell us how we would make sure that the review will apply to the whole of the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland?

Photo of Lord Roborough Lord Roborough Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, I apologise, but I need to take that back to the department. I will then write to the noble Baroness.

Photo of Lord Jackson of Peterborough Lord Jackson of Peterborough Conservative

My Lords, on gender data and empirical inquiries, will the Minister give the House an undertaking that we will never again have a situation, as we did with the Cass review, where NHS trusts and clinicians wilfully refused to release data to the inquiry, which was in the public interest and good?

Photo of Lord Roborough Lord Roborough Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, I am afraid that it is not for me to give that undertaking. I will have to take that back to the department and write.