What happens now?
The legal action is over for now but the process is not yet complete. As you’ll know, the ONS legal position was considered very weak at the permission hearing on 9 March, at which they were ordered by the court to change the guidance immediately, which the ONS did the same afternoon. Understandably keen to avoid a full judicial review, they approached us with an offer to settle the case. Following negotiation via our legal teams, this involved them signing a court order agreeing that UK Census law does not allow them to redefine sex as self-identified gender. It also included their agreement to pay all reasonable costs. Our legal costs to date have been £92,000. There will now be a standard process of assessment to enable a final settlement to be reached. Any shortfall between our legal team’s claim and the ONS settlement will be met from our crowdfunded total. This is a huge win, both on the principle and in the fact that the ONS could not defend their position. We simply could not have done it without your generous support of the crowdfunder giving us the confidence that losing would not have bankrupted us.
What are the wider implications?
After our ruling, the Northern Ireland Census authorities immediately and quietly fell into line, amending their guidance to match that required by Mr Justice Swift in London. We are now evaluating the legal implications for the Scottish census planned for 2022. We will announce any plans regarding this shortly. The Census case was specifically about the law governing the Census, so it does not set a legal precedent more widely. But it provides a strong signal that sex in the law does mean legal, not self-identified, sex, and that it is hard to argue otherwise. It also signals that resistance is mounting against the casual dismissal of women’s sex-based rights, and that those who listen only to trans activists could end up looking very foolish, very publicly.
A note on the financials
We raised £101,000 exactly. After Crowdfunder.co.uk deducts its fees + VAT, we received £93,985.79. As we promised when we launched the crowdfunder, any surplus will be put towards other Fair Play For Women campaigns. We are confident that the final costs award will leave us with a valuable fighting fund, although probably not enough to fight a whole new legal action if that becomes necessary. We will update with the detail once the cost assessment is complete. This is likely to be a couple of months away. In the meantime, we have already instructed our legal team to undertake the necessary evaluation work to enable us to prioritise and prepare for our next legal challenges.
Thank you again for your support
We are continuing our work in our key focus areas of prisons, sport, language and data. This case was a very welcome victory and we celebrated for a day – now it’s back to work!