Plymouth shooting: police urged to take misogyny more seriously

Gunman who killed five regularly expressed hatred of women but had firearms licence reinstated in July

Police must start taking misogyny more seriously in order to prevent more tragedies such as that in Plymouth, a top prosecutor has said, after a man who had regularly expressed his hatred of women killed five people and wounded two more.

Nazir Afzal, who was previously chief crown prosecutor for north-west England, said Jake Davison should have been on a police watchlist.

Davison, 22, killed his mother on Thursday in the Keyham area of Plymouth before going on to shoot dead four more people, including a three-year-old girl, and injure two others.

An investigation has been launched by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) into Davison’s possession of a shotgun and a firearms licence, which were returned to him in July after being removed last December following an allegation of assault against him in September 2020.

Afzal said Davison was “exactly the kind of person that you would be keeping an eye on”. Yet it appeared his licence was returned without analysis of his social media posts, which Afzal said painted a picture of a man who thought women were “lesser beings”.

Afzal raised the prospect that extreme views about women could be treated as terrorism. “You have got to think about how we deal with these men, and they are always men. What are they saying online, how are they being radicalised, who is doing the radicalisation?” Afzal said on BBC Breakfast on Saturday.

“If you treat it as terrorism then you have other options open to you in terms of intelligence gathering, in terms of being able to prosecute for disseminating materials, in terms of being able to hold them to account if they are conspiring with each other.

“So, there are other potential offences available if you treat it as terrorism, but of course as we currently know that’s not what the government’s intention is.”

The Plymouth gunman’s social media usage suggested a strong interest in the misogynistic “involuntary celibate” culture of men who are unable to form sexual relationships with women.

According to Jonathan Hall QC, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, the government is likely to consider treating so-called “incels” as terrorists.

Hall told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “The question is really whether or not the authorities want to treat the incel phenomenon as a terrorist risk. That would involve diverting resources or putting resources into it. If we see more of these sorts of attacks, then I have got no doubt that it will be treated more seriously as terrorism.”

Afzal said: “We have now seen posts on various social media sites which paint a picture of somebody that has a very low opinion or had a very low opinion of women, who seemed to have a belief he was entitled to do whatever he wanted to, a real expectation that women were some kind of lesser being.

“That kind of extreme misogyny of the type we have seen here and in terms of the incel community is a threat to all women and, ultimately, to all our communities.”

Dozens of floral tributes were left outside a supermarket close to where the shootings happened. Green heart-shaped balloons bearing the names of the five victims – Maxine Davison, Lee Martyn, Sophie Martyn, Kate Shepherd and Stephen Washington – were tied to a nearby railing.

Nick Kelly, the leader of Plymouth city council, said the return of the gunman’s licence would be key in the investigation of the shootings.

“It could be a wider issue nationally with regards to greater scrutiny of people who are given firearms because the last thing we want as a nation, or indeed as a city, is for anybody else to endure and go through the horrific actions and the loss of five innocent lives and two people who have got serious injuries in hospital.”


Kevin Rawlinson

The GuardianTramp

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