Campaigners attack Leeds council response after convicted paedophile Katie Dolatowksi stayed in women’s refuge
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Katie Dolatowksi used a false identity to cover her tracks and dupe Leeds Women’s Aid into letting her stay in a local refuge in the city for 71 days last summer. But a Leeds City Council review of the incident has made no recommendations and found no policy changes are needed to its domestic violence service, which is closely linked to Women’s Aid.
Dolatowski, who is 22 and transgender, had sexually assaulted a young girl in a supermarket in 2018. The authorities say there is no evidence of any crime being committed during her stay at the refuge last summer.
Campaign group Leeds ReSisters expressed dismay at the council’s response to last year’s incident. It is calling for transgender women to be banned from sharing spaces with other women at domestic abuse refuges. The group claims a “risk” to victims and children is “being actively ignored” amid the “rush to be seen as inclusive”. Their view is rejected by other groups, who say such an approach would infringe on the rights of transgender domestic abuse victims.
In a statement issued this week, Leeds ReSisters said: “This incident was a massive safeguarding failure. It feels like Leeds City Council are gaslighting women by reporting that ‘no one was put at risk’. Those vulnerable women and children were placed in harm’s way, they shared communal spaces with a convicted paedophile for 10 weeks. In the rush to be seen as inclusive, organisations up and down the country are actively ignoring the risk to women and children. Women and children are not acceptable collateral damage.
The group added: “Whilst Leeds ReSisters acknowledge that every person should have access to services as they need them, women and children must have their privacy, dignity and safety protected. Leeds Women’s Aid have dispersed properties they could house transwomen in. If these organisations had applied the single sex exception as detailed in the Equality Act 2010, this incident would not have occurred. As the investigation has concluded with no recommendations being made and no changes to policy, what is to stop a similar incident happening again?”
Scotland-born Dolatowski, also known as Alyanna McKenna, was apprehended by police at the refuge last September when managers discovered her past. She was jailed last month and sent to a male prison for repeatedly breaching her bail conditions.
A spokesperson for Leeds City Council said: “The council commissions Leeds Domestic Violence Service, which is managed and delivered by agencies that have the safety of survivors and their children at the heart of what they do. Their wide range of support services include an accommodation offer for anyone who needs to find a place of safety from domestic abuse. The review into this matter found no changes to processes or policy were needed. Leeds City Council is committed to keeping all survivors of domestic abuse, and their children, safe.”
The council has said it is supporting Leeds Women’s Aid with a consultation on how it provides services in future, following last year’s incident. No timescales have been set for that consultation, however. Leeds Women’s Aid was contacted for comment but did not respond. The charity said in November it was “appalled” that Dolatowski had “manipulated” her way into the refuge.
The Beaumont Society, which is a national self-help body for the transgender community, condemned Dolatowski, but defended the rights of transgender women who are domestic abuse victims. Its president and membership secretary, Rachel Dee, said: “It can only be wrong for a person to assume a false identity to gain access to any refuge. But in this case as I understand it no wrongdoing happened in the 71 days that she was at the refuge. It seems that the rights of all sections of society are under assault at the moment. We can only say the trans community has rights as well.”