Linda Bellos gives an impassioned speech at the Oxford Union during a debate on feminism in 2015
A veteran Labour activist who opposes transgender candidates taking places on all-women shortlists faces a private prosecution over comments she made about rival campaigners.
Linda Bellos was interviewed under caution after being reported to police over remarks she made about her willingness to take on pro-transgender activists.
But after officers decided not to press charges, the outspoken feminist and former Lambeth Council leader now faces a private prosecution led by a transgender campaigner.
Miss Bellos, 67, a friend of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, claims she is being targeted as part of a ‘war on women’.
She has been summoned to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court next month to respond to an allegation – made under the Public Order Act – that she used threatening language that could cause alarm.
Speaking at a gathering of feminists in York last year, Miss Bellos joked about thumping opponents.
She was reported to police after a video of her remarks was posted online.
In her speech, Miss Bellos said: ‘I play football and I box, and if any one of those b*****ds comes near me, I will take off my glasses and thump them. I am quite prepared to threaten violence because it seems to me politically what they are seeking to do is p*** on women.’
Miss Bellos has said her comments at the event last November were in response to the beating up of a radical feminist at a rally in Hyde Park two months earlier, which had made her ‘very angry and distressed’.
She said that at her police interview, officers told her transgender activists watching her speech online could have felt threatened by her remarks.
She argued her comments were about her right to self-defence and she was not aware they were being broadcast online.
North Yorkshire Police decided not to charge her, but Miss Bellos was then served with court papers notifying her she faces private prosecution by transgender activist Giuliana Kendal.
Speaking at a gathering of feminists in York last year, Miss Bellos joked about thumping opponents
The documents, seen by the Daily Mail, accuse her of breaking Section 5 of the Public Order Act.
This makes it an offence to use ‘threatening or abusive words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour’ or to display ‘any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening or abusive’ within the hearing or sight of a person ‘likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby’.
Section 5 has previously been used to arrest or prosecute religious campaigners against homosexuality, a British National Party member who displayed anti-Islamic posters in his window and people who have sworn at the police.
Miss Bellos said last night the court action ‘makes a laughing stock of British justice’.
She told the Daily Mail: ‘This is an attempt to silence women and it is outrageous. Freedom of speech continues to be a hallmark of our most fundamental rights and I seek to uphold it.
‘I’m a disabled pensioner with no funds to defend myself since my partner died of cancer, being intimidated by men purporting to be women.’
Supporters of Miss Bellos have claimed that Miss Kendal, 52, did not attend the meeting in York and launched her action after watching the video online.
Miss Kendal declined to answer questions last night. The activist, thought to be a former ballroom dancer, describes herself online as a feminist who is ‘passionate about equality for all, trans people in particular’.
Miss Bellos has been at the centre of a row in the Labour Party over the rights of transgender people after its national executive committee affirmed a policy statement saying all-women shortlists and women’s officer roles are all open to self-identifying trans women.
In May, Labour suspended an opponent of the move who in protest attempted to stand as party women’s officer in Basingstoke, claiming he identified as a woman on Wednesdays.
David Lewis said he was trying to draw attention to Labour’s policy of self-definition, where a person is recognised as a woman if they define themselves as one.