Campaigners and MPs call for misogyny to be made a hate crime

Letter sent to Met police commissioner says women are being left unprotected

A coalition of campaign groups and MPs have called on the Metropolitan police commissioner, Cressida Dick, to make misogyny a hate crime.

It comes after it was revealed that gender hate incidents were at least as common as any hate crime recorded by police. There were 67,000 such incidents last year, with 57,000 of them targeted at women, according to figures from the Crime Survey of England and Wales. People aged between 16 and 44 were most commonly targeted.

Gender was the motivation for more than half of the hate crimes women reported experiencing last year. Age, which is also not recorded by most police forces, was the second most common with 41,000 incidents, followed by race with 16,000.

The letter is signed by the MPs Jo Swinson, Stella Creasy and Peter Bottomley, the former home secretary Jacqui Smith, the Nottinghamshire police and crime commissioner, Paddy Tipping, Citizens UK, Women’s Aid and the Fawcett Society – calls on Dick and the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) chair, Sara Thornton, to follow the lead of Nottinghamshire, where police have introduced misogyny hate crime recording.

An online survey of Nottinghamshire residents found that 87% supported the move. Forces in North Yorkshire, Somerset and Avon and Northampton have also begun recording gender-based hate crime, while the Law Commission is carrying out a review.

The letter argues that women are being left unprotected by police forces’ failure to include misogyny in hate crime recording. “Women are targeted with harassment on the street and online on an everyday basis,” it states. “Accepting this as normal creates an environment in which one in five women have experienced sexual assault, and each week two women are murdered by a partner or ex-partner.”

In November, Dick backed Thornton’s call for police to prioritise tackling burglary and violence instead of recording incidents of misogyny.

Thornton told the NPCC’s annual conference that officers should not have to deal with reports of misogyny and it should not be a criminal offence, calling for them to focus instead on “core policing”. She said that while recording complaints of misogynist abuse may be desirable, police did not have the time or resources.

Reacting to her comments, Dick said: “In terms of misogyny, we have hate crime in legislation currently. We have aggravating factors, racially, or race hate. We have specific statutes and offences, we don’t have those in relation to gender-related crime or misogyny and, in my view, we should be focusing on the things that the public tell me they care about most.”

Sam Smethers, the Fawcett Society’s chief executive, said the letter’s signatories recognised the resource pressure police were under but the rising tide of hatred against women had to be taken seriously.

“This data should be a wake-up call to all of us but it is just the tip of the iceberg,” she said. “We have to recognise how serious misogyny is. It is at the root of violence against women and girls. Yet it is so common that we don’t see it. Instead it is dismissed and trivialised. By naming it as a hate crime we will take that vital first step.”

Helen Voce, the manager of Nottingham Women’s Centre, which is campaigning with Citizens UK to make misogyny a hate crime, said: “The Nottinghamshire experience demonstrates widespread public support for the measures taken by the local police force and showed a welcome increase in women’s trust in the police and greater willingness to report serious incidents.”

Katie Ghose, the chief executive of Women’s Aid, said forces who had introduced the recording of misogyny had not seen an influx in reporting of wolf-whistling but an increase in reports of serious sexual harassment and assault.

“It is clear that recognising misogyny as a hate crime gives survivors greater confidence that our criminal justice system will treat all forms of violence against women and girls more seriously,” she said. “That’s why we are supporting calls for police chiefs to back treating misogyny as a hate crime.”

Thornton said: “The core policing that the public tell us they care about most is seriously stretched. We do not have the resources to do everything that is desirable and deserving.

“There are well reasoned arguments for recording misogyny as a hate incident, even when no crime has been committed but it cannot be prioritised when policing is so stretched. Protecting women and girls from violence, harassment and sexual or domestic abuse continue to be priorities for the police.”


Alexandra Topping

The GuardianTramp

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