Thank you to everyone who contacted me about the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. I very much share your concerns with this Bill, and I can assure you that I have been speaking out both locally and nationally about it and will be pressing the Government to think again as the Bill continues to pass through Parliament.
There are some measures in the Bill, which I support including those relating to the Police Covenant, assaults on emergency workers, reform of the DBS scheme, sexual abuse by people in positions of trust and dangerous driving.
Unfortunately, this Bill does nothing to reverse the Tory’s failure to address the epidemic of violence against women and girls. At the same time introducing new restrictions to the vital freedom to protest, which will work to silence those voices that desperately need to be heard in any functioning democracy. Protests should be noisy and the law should not seek to shield those in power from public criticism and public protest. I believe these ill-judged and pernicious measures would be a profound mistake that could have long-lasting consequences and do great damage to our democracy.
Despite my colleagues and my best efforts, the Conservatives voted against our proposals to end violence against women and girls at every stage of the Bill’s passage. The Government voted against Labour’s proposals to increase minimum sentences for rapists, stalkers and those who break the anonymity of rape survivors, against making it easier for victims of rape and sexual violence to give evidence, against a new offence of street sexual harassment, against committing to make misogyny a hate crime, and against toughening sentences for domestic abusers and murderers.
With this in mind, it is absolutely clear that the Bill in its current form is not fit for purpose. It is disappointing that the Government has undermined many of the good measures in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill by coupling them up with divisive and draconian measures. As the Bill continues to be considered in Parliament, I will be pressing the Government to drop its poorly thought-out proposals and instead work across the political divide to legislate to tackle violence against women and protect freedom of expression and speech.