Ministers must introduce tougher sentences for femicide and investigate whether female suicides are the result of domestic violence in order to tackle brutality against women and girls, the Labour MP Jess Phillips has urged, as she cited in parliament the names of 128 women killed in the past year.
Phillips told MPs these demands will be included in a “families’ manifesto for change” that she and the Labour party are working on with the families of the victims she has included on her lists, which she has shared with parliament for seven years running.
“Each one had stories to tell about their daughters being murdered, the perpetrators on bail … or killings that went uninvestigated because the woman had taken drugs,” she said.
Speaking in parliament at a debate held in honour of International Women’s Day on 8 March, Phillips was joined by the family of two young women killed by their ex-partners, Carol, Matt and Zeb Gould, the parents and brother of Ellie Gould, a 17-year-old sixth-form student; and Julie Devey, mother of Poppy Devey Waterhouse, a 24-year-old quantitative trading analyst.
The family members have campaigned since February 2020 to change the minimum sentence for domestic murder. Although their daughters suffered multiple injuries after they were brutally stabbed, and the killers tried to hide their crimes, the guidelines for murder sentencing meant that both received minimum tariffs set at less than 20 years in prison.
In the case of Gould’s killer, it was because he was under 18, and for Devey Waterhouse, because killings in the home using an implement found at the scene – such as a kitchen knife – are given lesser sentences.
Phillips sourced the names of the murdered women from the Counting Dead Women project, led by campaigner Karen Ingala Smith.
Phillips told MPs it should be the government’s responsibility to keep track of murdered women, rather than requiring women such as Ingala Smith “to give away their labour for free in the pursuit of their own safety”.
The list also included Sabina Nessa, a 28-year-old teacher whose killer was recently convicted in a high-profile trial that gained public attention for its parallels with the murder of Sarah Everard. The two cases prompted an outpouring of fury from women over the lack of action to tackle violence against women and girls.
Before reading the list, Phillips noted that the names of the women had all occurred since “that supposedly watershed moment”.
She added: “Every name I’ll read, there will be a story of how better mental health services, even the slightest suggestion of offender management, or the availability of quick specialist victim support would have saved their lives.”