I was pleased to support the Newlove Amendment in the House of Commons on 28 February, which would have changed the law to make misogyny a hate crime. Regrettably, however, the Government and Conservative MPs voted to remove the Amendment from the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. Like you, I am very disappointed by this outcome. The Bill now returns to the House of Lords, which could vote to reinsert the Newlove Amendment. I will follow any developments in the Lords closely.
We know that misogyny sits behind much harassment and intimidating behaviour that unfortunately, many women experience as a reality every day in our communities. It fuels behaviour that far too often escalates into serious offences and harm to women and girls. The amendment tabled by Baroness Newlove aimed to tackle this. It would have required police forces to record data on crimes motivated by hostility towards the victim’s sex or gender and it would have required courts to consider this hostility as an aggravating factor when deciding the seriousness of cases which are not sexual or domestic offences.
As you will be aware, the campaign to recognise misogyny as an aggravating factor in the same way that we recognise hostility against a person due to disability, race or other characteristics has been running for years. I believe that now is the time to close the gap in our law and to state clearly that we do not accept the status quo and that things must change. There is much support for this reform and the Government should take this opportunity to rectify the law on this.
I have long supported calls for stricter legislation in regards to violence against women and girls – I believe that the law simply doesn’t go far enough (see my question on street harassment here). Given that 44% of rape victims pull out of the justice system and that successful prosecution rates are shockingly low, I have called for urgent action to rectify this (see my Parliamentary question on this here). Even though we have come a long way, progress towards meaningful change for women is too slow.
Considering all of the above, I desperately want to see toughening of existing sentences for perpetrators of rape and stalking, and the creation of new specific offences for street sexual harassment.
Let me assure you that I will continue to support efforts to ensure good intentions are backed up by effective action and real accountability.