A radical feminist and gay rights activist has today appeared in Westminster Magistrates Court and could face trial after allegedly threatening to “thump” a trans woman.
Linda Bellos, the 67-year-old former leader of Lambeth Borough Council, is charged under Section 5 of the Public Order Act, which bans “threatening or abusive words or behaviour” that is likely to cause “harassment, alarm or distress.”
She appeared alongside 43-year-old Rose Venice Allen, who is charged with one count of sending an offensive message by a public communications network, after posting a video of Bellos’ comments online.
The private prosecution, brought by Giuliana Kendal after the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) dropped the case, centres around comments made and broadcast at an event about the Gender Recognition Act, held in York last November.
Bellos, who has previously spoken out about proposed reforms to the Gender Recognition Act, says in the video that “having born two children I think I’m physiologically, and in many other senses, a female and a woman.”
“But I play football and box, and if any one of those bastards comes near me I will take my glasses off and thump them… I am quite prepared to threaten violence because it seems to me politically what they are seeking to do is piss on women.”
Kendal, a trans woman who watched the event remotely on a live stream, brought the case after the CPS decided not to press charges, claiming the comments were threatening to trans people.
Amanda Jones, the barrister representing Bellos and Allen, said they would be “asking the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to take on and discontinue the case,” saying that they had already been notified.
Appearing in the dock, Bellos wore a suffragette-themed pocket square, although many of her supporters were made to remove similarly coloured sashes at the entrance.
One supporter in the gallery also wore a T-shirt stating the definition of a woman as an “adult human female,” leading Kendal to make an application for the symbols to be removed as contempt of court.
“Adult human female” is used as a slogan by the group Standing for Women, and has recently been removed from a billboard in Liverpool after a complaint that it was transphobic.
“It is a political statement which is unacceptable in the courtroom,” Kendal continued.
However, District Judge Richard Blake threw out the request, saying that “people are free to wear what they want.”
A supporter of Kendal, Vicky Jane, told PinkNews that the “campaign T-shirts of the anti-trans movement” felt “intimidating,” and that she feels that the suffragette movement is being appropriated to exclude trans women.
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“I find that difficult to deal with because I like to think that if I had been alive at that time, I’d have been chaining myself to the railings as well. And who knows? Transgender women may well have been,” Jane said.
“I didn’t take my trans flag in because I thought that would be an aggressive act,” she added.
Jones stated that the pair were “not in a position” to enter pleas, saying they reserved the right to take their case to a judicial review, as well as applying to withdraw the court summons which were granted without their notice in July.
Outside the court, hundreds of protesters gathered to support Bellos and Allen. Groups present included A Woman’s Place, Fairplay for Women, Object, and Lesbian Rights Alliance.
Those protesting chanted “No offence, self-defence!,” “Adult human female!,” and sang a number of choral songs. One song asserted that genitals define womanhood, referenced “lopping off” a penis, and included the lyrics: “If he wasn’t born a woman he’s a man!”
The defendants and their in-court supporters—including Julie Bindel—were met with cheers as they exited the court building. Bellos and Allen thanked the protesters, with Allen celebrating that “we’re all working together now… We’ve got a couple of weeks till we can all complete the Gender Recognition Act consultation… We can stand up for what being a woman is, which is an adult human female.”
Subsequently, Conservative MP David Davies, gave a speech, in which he congratulated the defendants. Later, he told PinkNews he has “a lot of sympathy” with the opinion that “if you were born with a penis you can’t be a woman.”
Speaking to PinkNews, Kendal supporter Jane said that since the announcement of the Gender Recognition Act, trans people have experienced a “relentless build up of hate.”
A hearing has been provisionally set for November 30, with the judge concluding that the case presented “two factions with very different views on the world.”