Police response to women's outcry at Sarah Everard's murder discredits Bill to increase police powers
We are shocked but not surprised at the police response to women’s distress and fury at the murder of Sarah Everard. When thousands of women took to social media, Met chief Cressida Dick said not to worry because such murders are rare! When women called a vigil in Claphham Common to pay their respects, Dick banned it (apparently overriding local police)! When hundreds of women turned up, including Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, the police manhandled, handcuffed and arrested peaceful demonstrators!
This is not the only gross example of how violence against women is ignored and disrespected by the police and the criminal justice system generally.
We support calls for Cressida Dick to resign. Women at the top like Cressida Dick and Home Secretary Priti Patel who think and act like the worst of men encourage male violence, including police violence. Let’s not forget that it is a policeman charged with Sarah Everard’s murder. Is that why Scotland Yard banned yesterday’s protest?
The murder of Sarah Everard must be seen in the context of:
Rape is practically decriminalised: only 1.4% of reported rapes are prosecuted. The abolition of specialist Sapphire units and the digital strip searching of victims’ phones are part of the downgrading of rape by both police and CPS.
Two women a week are murdered by a partner or ex-partner (three in some weeks under lockdown), usually after their reports of assaults and threats have gone unheeded by police. That’s 15 times more victims than are killed in “terror” incidents in the UK.
97% of women aged 18-24 had suffered sexual harassment; 96% of them didn’t report it; half were convinced that nothing would be done. (UN Women UK survey released this month.)
Domestic abuse, including rape, is the most common form of violence, terrorising women daily. But perpetrators can count on near complete impunity.
Violent men are enabled by sexist, racist, class ridden family courts to continue their reign of terror against women and children. 69 children were killed by fathers between 2004-2020: all these men were known to police and/or social services. We have been campaigning to amend the Domestic Abuse Bill now in parliament, to abolish the “presumption of contact” which forces children to visit and even live with violent fathers – the government has refused. It has also refused to abolish “no recourse to public funds” which bars victims with uncertain immigration status from accessing justice and services. How dare they deny any woman protection!
Women of colour face sexism and racism from the police, but Cressida Dick denies the Met is institutionally racist. Yet last June, when the family of Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry reported them missing the police didn’t bother to look for them. After their bodies were found by family, police officers took selfies with the bodies!
86% of austerity cuts targeted women – including welfare benefits, social housing, legal aid and women’s refuges – all protections women need to stay safe and/or escape violence. Single mothers, women with disabilities and asylum seekers have been hardest hit.
The government is responding to every emergency and protest – Covid-19, the climate emergency, Black Lives Matter, HS2, violence against women and children – with an increase in police powers. The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which is being rushed through Parliament this week, would give police unprecedented powers to outlaw protests, including seizing phones, more stop and search, criminalise trespass (aimed at Gypsy, Traveller and Roma communities) and sentences of up to 10 years for damaging memorials. The government will try to use women’s fury at the violence we face to propose amendments to this Bill in order to get it through. We say NO to any more unaccountable police powers.
This Police Bill follows the “Spy Cops” Bill which would give undercover agents a licence to rape and murder. Police, institutions or private companies could target anyone they consider is acting against “the economic interests of the UK”. And the Overseas Operations Bill which would give military personnel impunity for crimes committed abroad.
We oppose an increase in police and corporate powers. The protection of women and children from sexual harassment, rape, domestic violence and murder must be prioritised by the criminal justice system and economic policies that empower women so we can protect ourselves.
- The resignation of Cressida Dick and Home Secretary Priti Patel.
- Amendments to the Domestic Abuse Bill to end “presumption of contact” with violent fathers and the end to “no recourse to public funds” – every woman and child is entitled to protection and justice.
- Scrap the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. No amendments can make such a Bill safe for women and human rights.