Thank you for those who have contacted me about women and girls' safety and the classification of misogyny as a hate crime.
As a Member of Parliament and as a father it troubles me deeply that women and girls feel unsafe anywhere in our country and in our own area, North Shropshire. I have always been clear that protecting women and girls from violence and supporting victims is of the utmost importance. Ensuring woman and girls feel safe is also crucially important.
I was glad to stand on a manifesto which pledged to continue the fight against the perpetrators of violence against women and girls. No-one in our society should live in fear of intimidation or violence. We should face down discrimination wherever it exists.
More protections are currently going through Parliament in the form of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. For the safety of women and girls it is important for the police to be able to act swiftly and for courts and prisons to take dangerous people off our streets. The Bill proposes an end to halfway release of those convicted of offences like rape.
It also extends the scope of the law in regard to those abusing positions of trust and this will help to protect children. It will also provide better protection and reassurance for victims of domestic abuse. The bill, if enacted, would see the Government getting tough on crime by giving the police extra powers and increasing sentences.
This month, the Home Secretary Priti Patel also reopened a call for evidence into Violence and Women and Girls, which has so far led to a further 150,000 responses. The call for evidence can be found at the link below and is open until Friday 26 March:
On the specific point about classifying crimes against women and girls as a hate crime: Home Office minister Baroness Williams has recently announced a change in advice to police forces. On an experimental basis, police forces will be asked to record and identify any crimes of violence against the person including stalking and harassment, and sexual offences where the victim perceives it to have been motivated by a hostility based on their sex.
Ministers will shortly begin the consultation with the National Police Chiefs’ Council and forces on this with a view to commencing the experimental collection of data from this autumn. While this does not in itself make misogyny a hate crime, the Government has said that it will monitor activity arising from its new advice to police forces in order to inform longer-term decisions.
Ministers regard this as a useful step while they await the outcome of the Law Commission's broader review of hate crime legislation. Work on this review is well underway and it will identify any gaps within the current legislation and determine whether sex or gender should be added to hate crime law.
The Law Commission's consultation closed on 24 December 2020 and I am glad those with an interest had the opportunity to share their views. The Government will consider the review's recommendations when they are complete.
Since the publication of the Hate Crime Action Plan in 2016 I have been encouraged by the progress that has been made, which has seen an increase in reporting and improvements in identification and recording of crime by the police.
Last week, the Prime Minister chaired a meeting of the Criminal Justice Taskforce in order to decide immediate steps to provide further reassurance for women and girls. These measures include a doubling in size of the Safer Streets Fund. The fund was originally launched last year to provide for many small and simple changes such as locked gates around alleyways, CCTV and improved street lighting.
The Government has also committed to work with police forces and Police and Crime Commissioners to target areas of potential concern for women and girls and to take more focussed action on preventing sexual violence. This is expected to include making parks and alleyways safer and addressing routes home from social hubs. The Government has been clear that investing in policing is a key priority and is recruiting 20,000 additional officers by 2023. I welcome the fact that the Government has outlined a funding settlement for the police of up to £15.8 billion in 2021-22. It is good news that this funding package for 2021-22 is an increase of £636 million on last year.
I hope that the above points reassure you that I take the safety of women and girls very seriously and that the Government is taking a wide range of actions to ensure people’s safety.