A v chief constable of West Yorkshire Police and another [2004] UKHL 21

A question of identity: A, a male-to-female transsexual, applied to become a police constable, but was rejected in 1998 on the grounds that she was a man under English domestic law, and was therefore unable to perform full searching duties. The police force contended it was an occupational requirement that a constable be male or female to carry out searches.

A brought a claim of sex discrimination, but by the time it reached the Court of Appeal, the European Court of Human Rights had decided the UK law’s lack of recognition of a person’s gender reassignment was a breach of human rights. So the court found the constable was obliged to treat A as a female, and could not discriminate on the basis that she was a transsexual.

The chief constable appealed unsuccessfully to the House of Lords, which relied on the Equal Treatment Directive to reject the appeal.

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