Senior police officer reduced women to “nothing more than prostitutes” in speech


A SENIOR Scots police officer has been accused of reducing women to “nothing more than prostitutes” in an after-dinner speech.

It has been alleged Superintendant Niven Rennie, of Strathclyde Police, made an “unending string” of offensive jokes at the annual conference of the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents (Asps) held last month.

Some guest were left “visibly upset” during the colourful speech, which included gags about female breasts, male sexual prowess and mental illness.

Rennie was speaking at the annual Asps conference.


Rennie’s material at the Asps conference, a key date in the police diary, prompted Lothian and Borders deputy chief constable, Steve Allen, to make an official complaint to Asps president, David O’Connor.

Steve Allen, who was a guest at the event, held last month at the four-star Peebles Hydro hotel in the Scottish Borders, said Mr Rennie’s speech had “embarrassed and compromised” his position in the force.

Mr Allen, a former Metropolitan police commander who was in charge of its diversity unit, was enraged after Rennie, chairman of the Strathclyde branch of Asps, fired off a string of “out-of-date” jokes that reduced women to “nothing more than prostitutes” and included jokes that “dwelled on penis size” and sexual orientation.

In a letter to the Asps president, Allen said: “Surely its decades since any professional person or organisation through these were appropriate for such occasions?

“I believe that we are trying to create a service that the most talented people want to join. We continually talk about a service that serves all sections of our community without fear or favour. All this rhetoric means nothing if we then go on to collude with out-dated white, male, heterosexual attitudes.

“In addition to the exclusionary effect of such attitudes, it is likely, in my view, that they contravene our statutory duties under the Equalities Act.

Allen said he had chosen not to walk about during Rennie’s speech as he did not want to embarrass the conference sponsors.

Rennie declined to comment on the row, but O’Connor said most dinner guests had found the senior officer’s jokes funny.

He added: “I can confirm a concern has been raised and I have received a letter. The matter will be considered next week.”

Human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar was present at the dinner he said Rennie’s material was “standard fare” for after dinner speeches, although some guests had been visibly upset.

He said: “It may not be the type of humour I am used to but I have heard worse among lawyers. It was said among adults and no offence was taken by myself or my wife.”

In 2003 American researchers concluded after-dinner speeches “aren’t as funny as they used to be” due to the fear of intolerant or offensive humour.

In 2006, John Vine, the former chief constable of Tayside police, gave a speech at a lawyers’ dinner which included a joke about Al-Qaeda fathers discussing their sons who had been suicide bombers. He said one of the fathers remarked: “Kids blow up so quickly these days.”

In 2007, Donald Findlay QC, one of Scotland’s top criminal lawyers faced disciplinary action after members of the public complained about a speech he made to Rangers fans at a social club in Northern Ireland. Findlay, a former Rangers v i c e -chairman, was reported to have said: “It’s very smokey in here tonight. Has another f****** Pope died?” He then allegedly told a joke about a nun and a turnip.

Allen could not be contacted for comment.


  1. What kind of dinners does Aamer Anwar attend where this type of gutter humour is “standard fare”? I have been on the after-dinner circuit for many years; I have spoken on four continents; I am Dean of the Guild of Robert Burns Speakers and I think that I am in a far better position to comment on what is standard for dinners of professional organisations. To suggest that such base “humour” is in any way standard is not just rubbish but is the height of irresponsibility, apart from being a slur on the rest of us. Incidentally I do not ever remember seeing Mr Anwar at any dinner and I wonder on what basis he thinks he is in a position to make such a comment. His comment, however, gives more than a hint of the kind of function he must be accustomed to attending.

    • Dear Mr Murray,

      I am ery disappointed to see that you have made these comments about my speech. You were not there but have seen fit to call my humour ‘base’. You may recall that we both spoke at the Prestwick Rotary Club dinner last November at which time I used much the same material. No offence was taken and you congrtulated me on the content after the dinner. I wonder why you have seen fit to make these comments at my expense now?

      For your information, I was speaking at the invitation of colleagues and thought I was amongst friends. One person, for reasons unknowm to me, sent an exaggerated letter of complaint which was not corroborated and found its way into print. The journalism was lazy and included assertions that people were ‘visibly upset’ to ensure publication. This artcile on the web is almost a direct cut and paste of the original. If the first was lazy, Im not sure how to categorise the second.

      In any event, I am very saddened that a person I held in high esteem would post comments such as these without any knowledge of the circumstances. Thankfully Mr Anwar was kind enough to defend me. I would have expected more from you sir.

  2. I have known Steve Allen for many years, he has a great sense of humour and is certainly not the type to complain about a few jokes made in an after dinner speech, providing they are not offensive to anyone.
    The jokes by Rennie must have been very offensive for Steve Allen to have spoken as he did, and to have written to ASPA regarding the speech. I think in the end all will agree with Steve Allen’s point of view and admit that Rennie was ‘way over the top’, and offensive.

  3. I would just like to say that I have heard both Len Murray and Niven Rennie doing after dinner speeches and found them to be both entertaining and funny, they even
    told some jokes that were the same so I don’t really no what all the hoo-ha is about
    after all it’s better to people laugh than cry

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