Suella Braverman has criticised a police force for “playing identity politics and denying biology” after it defended a legally male transgender sex offender by declaring it would not “tolerate any hateful comments about gender".
Sussex Police made the statement after it was criticised for referring to serial sex offender Sally Ann Dixon, 58, as female after she was jailed for 20 years.
The court has been told there was no gender recognition certificate changing sex from male to female.
The Home Secretary tweeted: “Sussex has done well to put a dangerous criminal behind bars. But they’ve got it wrong by playing identity politics and denying biology. Focus on catching criminals not policing pronouns.”
She was backed by Home Office minister Sir John Hayes who said the force should spend less time “virtue signalling” and “posturing” and concentrate on solving crimes and catching criminals.
The row comes just days after the Home Secretary urged police forces to focus on the basics rather than “symbolic gestures” and initiatives on “gender and diversity”.
Sussex Police had tweeted that Dixon had been jailed for 20 years for sexually abusing children in a seaside caravan.
Her trial heard that she was living as a man when she carried out a campaign of offending against two boys and five girls.
But the force's tweet described her case as a "woman convicted of historic offences against children in Sussex".
However, Clare King, who describes herself on her Twitter profile as a mother and school governor replied: "No Sussex Police. This is not a female crime."
The force then tweeted: "Hi, Sussex Police do not tolerate any hateful comments towards their gender identity regardless of crimes committed. This is irrelevant to the crime that has been committed and investigated."
When another Twitter user asked whether making gender critical statements were a crime, the force responded: "If you have gender critical views you wish to express this can be done on other platforms or your own page, not targeted at an individual."
It suggested the user "familiarise yourself with what is regarded as hate on our website" and included a link.
Sir John Hayes, chairman of the Conservative Common Sense Group, said: “Police should concentrate on solving crimes, catching criminals and prosecuting them and spend rather less time and attention on virtue signalling and worrying about opinions that are held by the vast majority of British people.
“If you ask what people think about convicted paedophiles - transgender or otherwise - they would have views that are a million miles from the ludicrous posturing of people who run Sussex Police’s Twitter account.”
Nick Timothy, the Telegraph columnist, said: "This thread is incredible. Sussex Police first threatening a member of the public for misgendering a serial paedophile, now doubling down and insisting that airing gender critical beliefs must not be expressed on this platform."
Julie Bindel, a feminist journalist, wrote: "This is a MALE sex offender. Liberals, and the 'be kind' brigade - do you see any problem in describing him as a woman?"
The forces' website defines a hate crime as: "Any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a person's race or perceived race; religion or perceived religion; sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation; disability or perceived disability and any crime motivated by hostility or prejudice against a person who is transgender or perceived to be transgender."
Dixon was found guilty on 30 offences of indecent assault or indecency with a child against seven victims in July, the youngest of whom was seven years old at the time. She was jailed for 20 years for crimes, which all took place before the year 2000.