In the wake of Sarah Everard’s murder, a top officer is to lead a drive to take crimes against women more seriously
A senior police chief will be appointed to combat violence against women and girls as part of a crackdown after Sarah Everard’s murder.
Priti Patel, the home secretary, will announce the change tomorrow when she unveils the government’s strategy on the problem.
The appointment was a key recommendation in a report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services, which was commissioned urgently after Everard’s murder.
Wayne Couzens, a serving firearms officer, abducted the 33-year-old as she walked home in south London in March. Her body was found 50 miles away in Kent woodland. Couzens pleaded guilty to her murder this month, having already admitted rape and kidnapping.
Officers had been warned about Couzens, 48, six years earlier. In 2015 a male motorist reported Couzens for driving naked from the waist down, while days before he killed Everard he is alleged to have exposed himself to a female employee at a McDonald’s branch.
The police chief will report to the National Policing Board, chaired by the home secretary, and lead national policing and co-ordination on violence against women and girls. This will include ensuring police take offences, such as indecent exposure and street harassment, more seriously. The precedent is the appointment of a police chief to take charge of counterterrorism, currently Neil Basu.
Patel said she wanted to create “a consistent response to ending these appalling crimes. Every aspect of policing and criminal justice system must have a determined approach to ending violence against women and girls. I want to see an end to the abhorrent abuse and violence that women and girls are subject to. The police have my full backing in cracking down on perpetrators and giving victims the care and support they need.”
A Home Office call for evidence after Everard’s murder has received more than 180,000 responses, which will be taken into account.
The strategy is expected to focus on three objectives: an increase in support for victims and survivors; a rise in the number of perpetrators brought to justice and in victim engagement with police and other public services; and a reduction in the prevalence of these crimes.
It is also expected that virginity testing — the examination or repair of the hymen — will be outlawed and that changes to personal, social and health and economic education at school will be introduced so that boys are taught how to respect women.
Following the outcry over Everard’s murder, Patel said she had felt unsafe walking the streets alone. “Too many of us have walked home from school or work alone, only to hear footsteps uncomfortably close behind us,” she said. “Too many of us have pretended to be on the phone to a friend to scare someone off. Too many of us have clutched our keys in our fists in case we need to defend ourselves. And that is not OK. Women and girls must feel safe while walking our streets.” [J4MB emphasis: What an irresponsible claim for a Home Secretary to make. How does she plan to deliver this unachievable goal? Two or three policemen to accompany any woman who wants to walk on her own anywhere, any time?]
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