UPDATE – on 16th March I voted against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. However, the Bill passed its second reading with the 359 votes for and 263 against. The Bill now moves to the committee stage where my Labour colleagues and I will do our best to make amendments that protect our rights.
15th March 2021: I have been contacted by many constituents raising their concerns about the policing of the Clapham Common vigil for Sarah Everard and the additional powers being proposed in the upcoming Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.
Like many across the country, I was deeply saddened by the scenes of the policing at Clapham Common on Saturday 13th March. Women came together to mourn Sarah Everard and make a public show of strength on the streets they do not feel safe on. They should have been able to do this peacefully.
The tragic death of Sarah Everard has generated national demand for action to tackle violence against women. Now is the time for us to unite and put in place long-overdue protections for women against unacceptable violence. This includes action against domestic homicides, rape, and street harassment, as well as tackling the misogynistic attitudes that underpin the abuse women face.
The last thing this Government should be doing is rushing through poorly thought-out measures to impose disproportionate controls on free expression and the right to protest. But this is exactly what they are doing.
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill has its second reading on Monday 15th March. I will be voting against this Bill.
The bill is a mess and could result in harsher penalties for damaging a statue than attacking a woman. What does it say about our society when a women’s body is worth less in law than a body carved in stone?
My Labour colleagues and I are calling on the Government to drop its ill-conceived proposals and instead work with Labour to use this as an opportunity to legislate to tackle violence against women.
I would note that there are some good and important reforms proposed in the bill. Indeed, some of the best measures come from campaigns by my colleagues: Stephanie Peacock on dangerous driving, Christ Bryant and Holly Lynch on protecting the protectors, John Spellar on reform of the DBS scheme and Sarah Champion on sexual abuse by people in positions of trust. My Labour colleagues and I support these measures, alongside others taken from the findings of the Lammy Review.
However, the Government has undermined the parts of this bill that I could support by pushing through draconian measures that impose disproportionate controls on free expression and the right to protest. In addition, there is nothing in the bill for victims of crime, nothing on rehabilitation or the prevention of crime.
Today Labour announced a Survivor’s Support Plan for victims of rape.
This package of measures includes increasing the minimum sentences for rapists and stalkers, creating a new street harassment law, introducing a Whole Life Tariff for anyone found guilty of abduction, sexual assault and murder of a stranger, announcing a Review to toughen up sentences for domestic murderers, and making misogyny a hate crime. Tackling the misogyny that drives this violence and helping to end the intimidation and harassment so many women experience daily is long overdue.
The Government could introduce these changes in the Police Crime Sentencing and Courts Bill. Now is the time to act.
More broadly, I would like to see the government work with Labour to promote preventative campaigns and education that will change behaviours throughout our society.