Transgender woman encourages people to speak up about hate crime

Mandy Watts PNL-160224-123232001
Mandy Watts PNL-160224-123232001

A woman who helped Bedfordshire Police bring its first transgender hate crime prosecution has described her experience.

Mandy Watts has spoken out about being the target of a vicious verbal attack to help raise awareness of hate crime during LGBT History Month.

Mandy, who had a reassignment operation in 2014 to transition from male to female, received a torrent of abuse and intimidating behaviour linked to her gender as she tried to leave a London Road car park on July 27, 2015.

She said: “Because I am transsexual I have experienced hate before. But this incident was different; it was very targeted and aggressive. What happened was truly shocking.

“I was quite shaken and tearful, but I took courage to call the police. I was treated very sensitively and left feeling valued as a person, as a transsexual woman, and as a victim of a hate crime.”

Sobia Mohammed, 29, of Tewksbury Road, Elstow, pleaded guilty to a public order offence that was perceived to be motivated by the victim’s gender identity causing her alarm and distress. She was given fines totalling £230.

Mandy said: “After receiving a call from police to say the woman had been arrested I felt a little lifted knowing that whatever happened now, the woman responsible for that ghastly incident would face some justice, even if she somehow managed to avoid a conviction. She didn’t. She was convicted, fined and collected a criminal record one month later.

“I want to send a message to all transgender and transsexual people that the police are on the side of victims, and treat trans people sensitively. They value their need for justice just as much as everyone else. What happened to me wasn’t acceptable and nobody else should accept it - abuse! There’s no excuse.”

Mandy has since worked with Bedfordshire Police to help them tailor their policy on interacting with transgender people.

A police spokesman said hate crime is vastly under-reported, especially hate towards the transgender community.

Police hope that this successful prosecution sends a strong message to other victims that they will be listened to and gives them the confidence go come forward, as well as a warning to offenders that hate crime will not be tolerated.

Detective Constable Edd Brett said: “Mandy disclosed she is a post-operative transsexual woman and felt the comments made were hate related. I completely agreed. No matter what race, religion, age or gender everyone should be able to go about their daily business without fear of being abused.

“This was an unprovoked and abusive incident. It needed a prompt and effective investigation. I was pleased CPS issued the charging decision and Sobia pleaded guilty to this unacceptable behaviour. This was a good result for Mandy and we hope it encourages more victims to speak out.”

To read Mandy’s story in full, go to http://tinyurl.com/bedspoliceblog