I believe that all victims of violence must be seen, supported and protected and I am concerned that domestic abuse is currently at epidemic levels.
For example, police-recorded domestic abuse-related crimes in the year ending March 2021 increased 6% from the previous year. In the circumstances, I do not believe that the Government’s current strategy goes far enough and polling shows that seven in ten women also consider current policies to stop sexual harassment, rape and domestic abuse to be inadequate.
It is also important to recognise that migrant women and girls, as well as women and girls who are Black, Asian and ethnic minority, LGBT+, or disabled, can face intersecting forms of discrimination and additional barriers to accessing support and protection, that contribute to disproportionately high levels of abuse or violence. Policies and the provision of services that deliver for the specific needs and experiences of women from these groups are vital.
The Police and Crown Prosecution Service have a crucial role in tackling violence against women and girls by bringing offenders to justice. I therefore support ensuring that Police units undertake training so that they can better recognise the impacts of prejudices and discrimination, and the additional barriers to accessing support and protection, that contributes to victims’ experiences of violence against women and girls.
I understand that the Valerie’s Law petition has reached the 100,000 signature threshold for a debate in Parliament, the date of which is currently set for 28 March. I note that in response to the petition, the Government has stated that the College of Policing’s Authorised Professional Practice on domestic abuse sets out that victims may have specific needs or issues relating to their cultural background or immigration status which should be considered when understanding risk and vulnerability of the victim, but it does not support making this mandatory. I recognise that the Government’s position on this issue is likely to disappoint you. I hope that Ministers will think again.
More widely, I believe we need action from the Government to tackle discrimination and prejudice within the Police to help rebuild public confidence.
Even though we have come a long way, progress towards meaningful change for women is too slow. That is why I would also like to see a toughening of existing sentences for perpetrators of rape and stalking, and the creation of new specific offences for street sexual harassment.
I’m contacted on a weekly basis by constituents who are concerned about the growing rates of antisocial behavior, violent crime and crime against women and girls in their communities. Labour will always put these priorities first.