The Metropolitan Police are now investigating violent threats against three politicians in the United Kingdom despite initially claiming the case was not a police matter.
Earlier this week, a trans activist on Twitter directed violent abuse towards Joanna Cherry, the Scottish National Party Member of Parliament (MP) for Edinburgh South West. The activist was ostensibly outraged that Cherry had shaken her head as a colleague read out testimony from a transgender constituent during a Parliamentary debate on the legal definition of “sex” in discrimination law.
Cherry was targeted along with MP Rosie Duffield of the Labour Party, and MP Neale Hanvey, the leader of minor pro-Scottish independence party Alba. All three politicians have been outspoken about the impact of gender ideology on women and children in the UK.
The account issuing the threats went by the username @syntheticsylvie and displayed a transgender flag.
“I’d kill her with my bare hands if I ever saw her [in real life],” tweeted the account late Tuesday night. “Each of them should be murdered in broad daylight on a crowded street,” the account added a few minutes later, referencing all three of the politicians.
On Wednesday, the Metropolitan Police rejected that the first tweet amounted to a crime in a statement they uploaded to Twitter.
“On Tuesday, 13 June the Met was made aware of a tweet received by a serving MP,” a spokesman said in a statement. “The contents were assessed and it was deemed it did not meet the criminal threshold for an offence. The matter was logged for intelligence purposes.”
Cherry responded in the press that she hoped the police would reconsider their decision.
“Sadly, all too often, politicians, particularly women, have to put up with direct threats on their life through social media and hateful emails,” Cherry said in a statement to pro-Scottish independence newspaper The National.
“This is just one example of the repeated attempts to remove women like me who stand up for the rights of women and girls from public life. Next month I will be in court to give evidence against another man who threatened to kill me,” she added.
Due to the initial inaction by the police, Alba’s Hanvey stated that he was forced to leave Parliament and London for the week as he had “lost all confidence [in the police] to take my safety seriously.”
“Having to explain the threats and the police’s indifference to my husband was quite surreal,” he tweeted.
“This chaotic and dangerous movement have made it clear, they have run out of legitimate arguments and are resorting to coercion, hyperbole and threats of extreme violence,” Hanvey concluded. There is no place for this behaviour in a democratic society.
Women’s rights advocates on Twitter similarly expressed outrage at the failure of the Met to investigate the threats. The controversy attracted the attention of Harry Potter author JK Rowling, who noted that “accurately sexing rapists” had been cause enough for police concern in the past.
But following the widespread backlash, the Metropolitan Police appeared to change their tune.
Yesterday, they declared that the two tweets together did warrant an investigation “for potential criminal offenses” under the Communications Act 2003.
“We take the safety and security of MPs extremely seriously and our Parliamentary Liaison and Investigation Team works with colleagues from local police forces through the Operation Bridger network and the Parliamentary Security Department to provide MPs and their constituency teams with support and advice in relation to their safety and security,” the Metropolitan Police spokesman said.
The account the threats were issued from has since been deleted, and the investigation remains ongoing.