The tragic death of Sarah Everard has brought into sharp focus the need for urgent action to tackle violence against women. Now is the time to unite the country and put long overdue protections against violence into place – including action against domestic homicides, rape and street harassment – as well as tackling the misogynistic attitudes that underpin the abuse women face.
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill (which has its second reading in the Commons this week) presented an important opportunity for meaningful sentencing reform. Instead, the Tories have brought forward a bill that seeks to divide the country and could lead to harsher penalties for damaging a statue than for attacking a woman.
My Labour colleagues and I will therefore be voting against the bill this week. We are calling on the Government to drop its poorly thought-out proposals and instead work with us to legislate to tackle violence against women and to deliver other long-promised reforms, like tougher sentences for attacks on frontline workers and for terrorists.
There are several important measures contained within the bill, many of which are a result of campaigns by Labour MPs: Stephanie Peacock on dangerous driving, Chris Bryant and Holly Lynch on protect the protectors, John Spellar on reform of the DBS scheme and Sarah Champion on sexual abuse by people in positions of trust. Labour supports these measures, alongside others taken from the Lammy Review.
However, there is nothing in the bill for victims of crime and nothing on rehabilitation or the prevention of crime. After years of broken promises by this Government, Labour has set out its own Victims’ Bill which we believe Ministers should accept, alongside our Survivor’s Support Plan for victims of rape (announced on March 15th).
Ministers have also undermined the parts of this bill we support through: draconian measures that impose disproportionate controls on free expression and the right to protest; measures that will have an unfair impact on Black, Asian and ethnic minority people; a lack of evidence of effectiveness at stopping reoffending; and signalling the wrong priorities about keeping people safe by handing down longer sentences for crimes against statues than for various crimes that disproportionately affect women.
It is clear that this bill fails to address the crisis in our policing and justice system that has been created by a decade of cuts and failed Tory ideology.