THE independent status of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has come into question after two of the body’s former legal directors appeared to say it no longer deserved such standing.

The news follows a document signed by 20 LGBT organisations, including Stonewall, claiming the commission is working to remove legal protections for trans people.

A 19-page submission to the UN, and to the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI), calls for the independent status of the EHRC to be removed.

This would prevent the body from being able to make representations at the UN Human Rights Council, or its committees on human rights.

Stonewall UK chief executive Nancy Kelley said: “Independent human rights institutions have a duty to protect and promote *all* of our rights without fear or favour.

“The EHRC is not fulfilling that duty, which is a sad and frightening thing for all of us who have experienced discrimination and abuse.”

READ MORE: Stephen Paton: EHRC is starting to look like a front for Tories

It came as leaked papers reported by Vice News suggest the EHRC was planning to publish guidance which would recommend blocking the estimated 99% of trans people without a gender recognition certificate (GRC) from accessing single-sex spaces.

The Trans Legal Project said such a stance was “legally ludicrous”, calling the reported position “prejudiced, vindictive, and unworkable”.

“The EHRC is adopting legal positions to allow for blanket discrimination against trans people on ideological grounds,” it added. However, the commission denied the report’s veracity.

The legal project’s analysis of the laws around single-sex spaces and trans people was shared online by Grey Collier, advocacy director at the human rights organisation Liberty, and former legal director of the EHRC.

Collier wrote elsewhere: “As a former legal director of EHRC I cannot agree strongly enough that it no longer meets the conditions for UN accreditation.

“It is not independent. It does not support human rights for everyone. And now we hear it doesn't even understand the law it was created to uphold.”

Collier's post was shared in turn by Elizabeth Prochaska, a human rights lawyer and another former legal director of the EHRC.

Prochaska added: “What has happened to EHRC? This is a profound and wilful misinterpretation of the law. It endangers trans people and does nothing to ‘protect women’.

“I was once proud to be their legal director. Solidarity to my brilliant ex-colleagues, who are so much better than this.”

The National: Scottish Green Party co-leader Patrick Harvie at Bute House after the finalisation of an agreement between the SNP and the Scottish Greens

The EHRC has also come under fire from politicians such as Scottish Green minister Patrick Harvie (above). He wrote: “If the leaks are true and the EHRC does try [to block trans people without GRCs from accessing single-sex spaces], I am certain it will be strongly opposed in Scotland.

“But the harm is already done; both creating confusion and encouraging overt transphobia.

“The EHRC has become a weapon in the UK Government's culture war. It has lost all credibility.”

The head of the EHRC, cross-bench peer Kishwer Falkner, was directly appointed to the role in October 2020 by the Tory government’s Minister for Women and Equalities, Liz Truss.

Truss further appointed four new commissioners to the EHRC board the following month.

The EHRC sparked outrage in Scotland after intervening in the Gender Reform debate, telling the Scottish Government to put the reforms on hold as consultations had not adequately taken into account their impact on women’s sex-based rights.

The Scottish Government has already run two separate consultations on the bill, and received a total of around 32,000 responses.

Asked about the EHRC's intervention, Nicola Sturgeon highlighted how far its position differed from submissions sent in during those two consultations.

The Equality Network’s director, Tim Hopkins, said: “We do not need UK Government appointees telling us in Scotland how to legislate in devolved areas, and we look forward to the Scottish Government proceeding with this legislation soon.”

The EHRC released a statement saying that reports it planned to recommend that only trans people with GRCs be allowed access to single sex spaces were “misinformation”.

It went on: “It is completely false to suggest that we are looking to bar trans people from accessing spaces without a Gender Recognition Certificate. We are not aware of any document produced by the EHRC that would support this.

“The Equality Act provisions on gender reassignment are not predicated on possession, or not, of a Gender Recognition Certificate.”

Elsewhere, the EHRC chief executive Marcial Boo accused the LGBT groups calling for the commission to lose its status with the UN of having the “wrong target”.

“Instead of criticising the statutory regulator that exists to protect the rights of everyone in Britain, campaign groups should work with us to identify discrimination against LGBT people so we can take action together to stop it,” he said.