Police Scotland accused of parodying JK Rowling with gender critical ‘Jo’ character in hate crime training

Police Scotland has been accused of targeting JK Rowling after an official hate crime training session presented attendees with a fictional character called “Jo” who thinks sex is binary and bizarrely calls for transgender people to be sent to the gas chambers.

Police Scotland has been accused of targeting gender critical feminists like JK Rowling after an official hate crime training session presented attendees with a fictional character called “Jo” who initially expresses the sorts of views that would receive protection under the Equality Act, but is then quickly radicalised and ends up calling for the systematic, mechanised extermination of all transgender people.

Women’s groups say the character is a thinly veiled parody of the Harry Potter author, whose Christian name is Joanne and is called Jo by her friends, and fuels unfounded conspiracies that there is a link between gender-critical beliefs and Nazism.

As reported by the Telegraph, attendees at an official Police Scotland hate crime event were presented with a “scenario” in which Jo is described as a “passionate” gender-critical campaigner who, like Rowling, believes people cannot change sex and has a large social media following.

The character of “Jo” is described as an “online influencer” who is “very active” on social media platforms TikTok and Instagram, with a “large following”. Rowling is active on X, formerly Twitter, and has 14 million followers.

Jo “often gets very passionate about her beliefs and will say things like ‘there are only two genders’”, the fictional scenario states. So far, so legal, you might say. But in a highly implausible plot twist, attendees are then told that: “Jo posted her most recent video with the caption ‘they all belong in the gas chambers’.”

Having listened to Police Scotland’s cautionary tale about how rapidly females like Jo can become radicalised by belief in the importance of women’s sex-based rights, attendees were asked to discuss whether she had committed a hate crime, and “what action do you think the police should take”. Views expressed by young people were then recorded and “fed back to decision makers within Police Scotland”.

The hate crime “youth engagement” event, held in February, was part of a programme of events organised by Police Scotland for LGBT history month, and was jointly organised by the Scottish LGBTI Police Association and the Time for Inclusive Education (TIE) campaign group.

News of the event comes as Police Scotland gears up for the activation of Scotland’s “dangerous” and “authoritarian” new hate crime law on April Fool’s Day.

Although the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act was given Royal Assent in April 2021, it wasn’t activated immediately, partly because Police Scotland needed time to work out how it could implement the legislation on the ground without immediately being swamped by groundless or malicious complaints.

As part of the Scottish Government’s self-proclaimed attempt to “consolidate, modernise and extend” existing hate crime legislation, the Act broadens the offence of ‘stirring up racial hatred’, extending it to the protected characteristics of disability, religion, sexual orientation, age, transgender identity and ‘variations in sex characteristics’.

Putting aside race (which is handled slightly differently to the other protected characteristics) committing the offence requires:

  1. Behaviour or communication to another person of material that a “reasonable person” would consider threatening or abusive; and
  2. Intention to stir up hatred against a group of persons defined by a protected characteristic.

As per the legislation’s protections for freedom of expression, it will not be deemed “abusive and threatening” to engage “solely” in “discussion or criticism” about age or any of the other protected characteristics.

Scots like JK Rowling – or rather, ‘Jo’ – are also expressly permitted to voice “antipathy, dislike, ridicule or insult” for religion. However, that carve-out does not apply to the legislation’s other protected characteristics, raising serious free speech concerns, not least for those who hold and manifest the gender critical belief that the category of biological sex must take precedence over a person’s ‘gender identity’ in policy and law.

Those concerns are unlikely to have been assuaged by the news that Police Scotland’s most up-to-date hate crime training materials include a fictional scenario in which expressing belief in the immutable biological reality of sex features as the rhetorical equivalent of a ‘gateway drug’, leading on to harder forms of extremism, including calls for the mass slaughter of all trans folk.

Marion Calder, a director at For Women Scotland, the campaign group, said the materials were “clearly trying to create a link with JK Rowling” and that it was “deeply concerning” to see “Jo” quickly leap from “reasonable statements” to the Holocaust.

“These woke training sessions given by activists present highly contested statements as fact and would leave officers tasked with enforcing hate crime legislation with a warped view of the issues,” she added.