Steph's Place

EHRC Conflicts of Interest - Part 1

Investigation

 

On the 2nd Feb 2022, Vice News published and article into how the EHRC have been colluding with trans hostile lobby groups and individuals and clear conflicts of interest.

 

The EHRC released a statement on Twitter claiming that these were ‘allegations’ and ‘taken out of context’, without providing any evidence this was the case.

 

So let’s start to provide the context that they claim is missing.

In this series of articles we will present a range of available evidence which appear to show the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) have been openly working to undermine the rights of transgender people in the UK, including apparent collusion with so called ‘gender critical’ groups, and several apparently major conflicts of interest. Obviously this is our opinion and nterpretation of the available evidence, which appears to be incontrovertible and damning.

These articles are part of a detailed dossier that was sent to a number of MPs, political party officials, legal bodies and selected journalists towards the end of last year.

In this first part, we will look at the evidence that EHRC Board Commissioner Alasdair Henderson appeared to fail to to declare a major conflict of interest, which resulted in the EHRC’s intervention in Forstater vs Centre for Global Development tribunal appeal, as well as the EHRC appearing to mislead about when his involvement actually started in that intervention. All information contained herein is either a copy of or a direct link to publicly available information, or is documentation obtained under Freedom of Information Act requests.

 

Overview

Henderson is a QC / Barrister who sits on the EHRC board, and appears to be oppositional to transgender rights from a religious perspective. 

Henderson appears to have worked, or been allowed to work on the Forstater vs Global Development appeal despite a known and admitted conflict of interest in regards to issues affecting transgender people in contravention of the EHRCs rules.

His Register of Interests appears to be misleading by failing to state that the case he was working on was not just an attack on trans healthcare but the fundamental legal right and principle of Gillick Competence - a right that underpins healthcare consent for young people that affects abortion and contraception access - effectively working against the rights of women and children as well.

 Where is the Conflict of Interest?

A conflict of interest (CoI) arises when the beliefs or activities of a person affect other work the person is involved with for a particular body or organisation. In the event a conflict of interest arises, the person must remove themselves from all activities, including discussion or guidance, where that conflict is present, in order for the work to be conducted in an unbiased fashion.

 

The fundamental issues here are :

  • The EHRC mischaracterisation of Forstater vs CGD as a ‘Free Speech’ issue, where it is a ‘Transgender’ issue - as clearly evidenced in the Law Commission Report into Hate Crime where it was referenced almost exclusively in this context. This intervention provided an open door for the so called ‘gender critical’ movement to amplify their attacks on the UK’s Transgender community with apparent backing from the EHRC 
  • The apparent misrepresentation of the true nature of Bell vs Tavistock, as evidenced by Conrathe’s own statement, and using Gillick Competence as an attack on trans healthcare for young people - an unethical position from a human rights perspective. A position the EHRC also appeared to be unaware of.

 

In failing to declare a Conflict of Interest in regards to Forstater vs CGD, and the EHRC ignoring this self evident conflict, Henderson and the EHRC leadership appear to have, in our opinion, brought the public body into disrepute.

 While we can only speculate at the intent behind this, the resulting actions are clear - the EHRC have provided an avenue for ‘gender critical’ groups and the UK Government to justify attempting to remove or amend existing rights for transgender people in the UK that have been working and in place for more than half a century, and now appear to be actively working against those existing rights and protections.

And this isn’t the only example.

 The EHRC appear to be more concerned with how it would look if this evidence came to light publicly, with a frantic series of panicked emails going so far as to develop scripted responses to the media designed to distance the body from some of these activities.

 

Questions

So we have to ask : 

  • Why was Henderson allowed to suggest and be involved in Forstater vs CGD when there was a clear, open and known conflict of interest?

  • Why did the EHRC mislead about when his involvement started?

  • Why was Henderson allowed to continue as a board member despite his clear involvement in a prejudicial case against trans young people, which also has human rights implications for children’s and women’s rights?

  • Why did they not appear to be aware of the human rights ramifications in terms of impacts on other groups?

  • Was the intervention in Forstater vs GCD intended as a wedge to legitimise anti-trans hatred?
  • Why are they defending the indefensible?

 

Summary of Evidence

  • Henderson’s EHRC Register of Interests indicates a conflict of interest with regards to transgender people due to participating in the Bell vs Tavistock legal case in December 2020, which resulted in the NHS removing all medical treatment options from trans young people - a direct attack on the healthcare of trans people.

  • Henderson worked alongside Paul Conrathe on the Bell vs Tavistock case, a ‘Christian’ lawyer known for legal attacks against abortion, contraception and LGBTQ+ rights.

  • While Bell vs Tavistock was supposedly about healthcare for transgender young people which was overturned in September 2021, Conrathe revealed it was actually an attack on Gillick Competence (Image below) - the right for young people under 16 to consent to their own medical care.

     

  • Henderson appeared to excuse himself from activities relating to transgender people due to this conflict of interest on two occasions, as noted in the EHRC Board Minutes on 11 March 2020 and 10 September 2020, indicating he was aware of the nature of the conflict of interest with other EHRC work.

  • Despite this conflict of interest and awareness of such, Henderson appears to have both suggested and been involved in pushing the EHRC to intervene in the Forstater vs Centre for Global Development tribunal appeal intervention, ostensibly from a free speech perspective. This appeal has enabled trans hostile views to be enshrined as ‘protected philosophical beliefs’ under EA2010, legitimising abuse of transgender people and acting as a legal ‘wedge’ to enable further actions - an obvious conflict of interest.

  • Note : Maya Forstater is a leading figure in the UK trans hostile movement, and runs the lobby group ‘Sex Matters’.

  • The EHRC also appears to have directly misled the public over the involvement in this intervention.

  • Document ‘FOIReq1 - Henderson’, shows Henderson pushing for intervention in the Forstater vs Centre for Global Development appeal on the 11 September 2020 - one day after declaring a conflict of interest in transgender issues at the 10th September 2020 Board Meeting.

  • Document ‘FOIReq2 - Henderson’, shows the EHRC quite clearly states that Henderson suggested this on the 1st April 2021, in direct contradiction to the above evidence.

  • Document ‘FOIReq3 - Monaghan’, quite clearly shows that the ‘advice’ mentioned in Document ‘FOIReq2 - Henderson’ was elicited on 29th March 2021, prior to Henderson's apparent suggestion of 1st April 2021, but long after the initial actual suggestion in September 2020, again in direct contradiction to the above evidence.

  • The EHRC engaged the services of Karon Monaghan QC of Matrix Chambers for their intervention in the Forstater vs Centre for Global Development appeal, as shown in Document ‘FOIReq3 - Monaghan’.

  • Document ‘FOIReq1 - Henderson’ also shows the EHRCs intervention was based on an article by Monaghan, suggesting collusion in this area.

  • Monaghan appeared before the Womens & Equalities Select Committee GRA Enquiry on 10th Feb 2021 alongside Naomi Cunningham of ‘Legal Feminist’ and lobby group ‘Sex Matters’ - both opposing Gender Recognition Act Reform.

  • Document ‘FOI Update - Henderson 2’, a copy of the EHRC’s internal spreadsheet recording conflicts of interest, shows that Henderson did not declare any Conflict of Interest in regards to the EHRCs Forstater intervention, despite it clearly being a ‘transgender issue’.

  • The Law Commission’s report into Hate Crime, released on 7th December 2021 clearly references Forstater vs CGD multiple times as a particular factor in relation to transgender people and hate crime affecting trans people, thus confirming that this was indeed a ‘transgender issue’ that should have been treated as a conflict of interest.

  • Document ‘FOI Update - Henderson 1’ shows that the EHRC were not fully aware of the extent Henderson played in the fraudulent and now overturned Bell vs Tavistock case, and were more concerned with how it would look for them if this was revealed, rather than any human rights implications of the case itself.


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