A man in Essex county, England is causing concern amongst locals, especially parents, after being spotted loitering near children’s schools while wearing a schoolgirl uniform. In response to complaints, Essex Police is insisting the man “does not pose a risk,” and has warned the public against sharing photos of him on social media.
Throughout the week, the unnamed man has been wearing the uniform of a young schoolgirl while wandering in proximity of two schools, one primary and one secondary. In the United Kingdom, primary school ages range from 5 to 11, while secondary school aged youth can be as young as 11.
It has been noted that the uniforms of the man reflect that of Belfairs Academy, which is in the vicinity of the Highlands Boulevard School and Milton Hall Primary School in Southend-on-Sea. He has been seen near both of the schools this past week, as well as on the public bus when children would be taking it home after classes.
On January 19, official school uniform supplier Paul’s School and Workwear addressed the fiasco in a Facebook post, revealing that the man had been purchasing some uniform items from their shop.
The post explained to the public that “the full Belfairs uniform did not come from us,” but went on to confirm that the man had been in the store this week purchasing “a Grey box pleat skirt that he said was for his granddaughter.” The supplier announced they had banned the man from their store, and encouraged members of the public to call police if they see him.
“This is to be taken seriously as he needs help and no-one would know his mind set. Reports say he dresses in Belfairs & Milton Hall uniform. If you see him – STAY AWAY and call 101 to report where he is.”
Some in the community were appreciative of the uniform supplier’s firm stance on the matter, while others insisted that the man is free to dress as he pleases. One woman responded to the supplier’s post on Facebook, thanking the store for warning members of the public.
“Thank you Paul’s School and Work Wear for taking this seriously. A grown man hanging around multiple schools and staring at young women and girls on a bus used by school children is premeditated for sexual gratification – no matter what the mental health diagnosis is. I agree this man needs help…”
The commenter continued by invoking the memory of Sarah Everard, a 33-year-old woman who was kidnapped, raped, and murdered by a serving London Metropolitan police officer who used his status to handcuff and kidnap her.
“Why should our girls be made to feel scared and have to move to other parts of the bus on their daily journey to and from school. The police say no crime is committed which is true technically – but by saying no risk – this tells people that police think its okay to alarm and distress young girls in this manner. This is not okay I do NOT want my children exposed to this.”
Another comment under the post from Paul’s reads: “We keep pushing the boundaries of acceptability. Grown men in children’s clothes hanging around schools is not acceptable and yet again police do nothing.”
Paul’s School and Workwear even addressed those who were defending the man’s behavior and added a comment to their own post.
As reported by Echo, the Essex police have identified “the person dressed in an inappropriate outfit in the vicinity of a school in Leigh,” and “have discussed the incident with the person,” saying they understand the community’s concerns but reiterating “this individual does not pose a risk.”
This was paired with Essex police’s urgent request to stop sharing photos of the man on social media citing that they “could have a detrimental personal impact on those concerned.”
Essex Police did not refer to the man with any gendered language like “man” or “he,” but worded their statement in carefully-chosen neutral terms.
As photos of the individual began to circulate on social media, many began to express disappointment with Essex Police’s seemingly relaxed attitude on the matter, with many taking it as a failure to protect young children and, in particular, young girls.
One mother posting under an alias on motherhood forum Mumsnet said, “He’s been seen around schools – both primary and secondary – dressed as a schoolgirl (in their uniform). I am fucking outraged that the police don’t seem to think that’s an issue. God forbid we offend men or shame their fetishes.”
Popular UK-based Twitter account @ripx4nutmeg has also called attention to the fact that Essex Police are trained by Stonewall, an LGBTQ activist organization which heavily focuses on trans rights.
On their official website, the force states “Essex Police believes in dignity for all and are on a journey of incremental improvements, including how we can better include and enable the aspirations of people who are LGBTQ.”
As noted by some women keeping an eye on the situation, the lack of apparent concern for safeguarding women and girls seems to be a pervasive problem amongst UK police.
As of 2021, there were hundreds of allegations of sex-based violence perpetrated by police officers in the country being recorded every year. Following the Sarah Everard tragedy, the Femicide Census revealed that they did not feel tackling such violence was a “police priority.” Since 2013, there have been at least 16 women in the United Kingdom killed by a serving or retired police officer.
In the past year, there have been multiple cases of police officers in the Metropolitan force serving the Greater London area were convicted of rape.
In the past week alone, a long-serving Met police officer has made international headlines for a campaign of rape he committed against vulnerable women.
David Carrick, who worked with the Metropolitan Police for almost two decades, carried out “a relentless campaign” of violence over 17 years against 12 women. On January 16, Carrick admitted to 49 counts of rape and other sexual offenses. Just weeks prior, Met constable Rupert Edwards was charged with raping two women in two different communities.
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