Commissioner ‘deeply sceptical’ about classing misogyny as hate crime

Clamping down on misogyny by tackling abuse of women as a hate crime might not be the best use of scarce resources, the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) Commissioner has said.

Dec 13, 2017

Clamping down on misogyny by tackling abuse of women as a hate crime might not be the best use of scarce resources, the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) Commissioner has said. The MPS is currently waiting to hear back from a Nottinghamshire Police pilot that has seen the force treat violence against women as an aggravated offence. However, Cressida Dick told the London Assembly on Wednesday (December 13) she is “deeply sceptical” about the plans at a time when the force is struggling with a stretched budget. Her comments come after Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton, the national lead for hate crime, said “the time is right to consider” a national rollout of the policy. “Of course I am as concerned about violence against women and girls as anybody and indeed I have spent my whole life being concerned about how we in the police carry out our functions in a manner that will support women and girls in the community,” said Ms Dick. “Most of [this abuse] will be manifest in anti-social behaviour, perhaps reports of harassment, other crime reports, and we do have some strong legislation that supports our hate crime work. “I am deeply sceptical about the use of scarce police resources to clamp down on wolf-whistling, I’m afraid. But it’s a complicated issue and I’m very happy to discuss it further in the future.” Since June 2016, Nottinghamshire Police has been responding to misogyny as a hate offence, investigating dozens of reports in the first ten months of the pilot. Cat-calling, wolf-whistling and unwanted sexual advances all fall under the new classification of a gender-based hate crime. Mr Hamilton told the Women and Equalities Committee last week that a number of forces are now “going to try to take this forward” to show women that their experiences are being taken seriously. Tackling violence against women and girls is a key part of London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s police and crime plan, which says “it is a sad fact that some people in our city think it is unacceptable to abuse, harass and attack” them. The number of domestic offences committed in London rose 15 per cent between 2014 and 2017, and reports of rape increased by 16 per cent last year. Ms Dick’s reservations about resources come after Mr Khan highlighted a £370 million shortfall in the MPS’s budget by 2021. Deputy Commissioner Craig Mackey also pointed out that Nottinghamshire Police’s pilot is still in its early stages so there is little evidence on the impact of responding to misogyny as a hate crime. The MPS’s hate crime lead is currently visiting other forces around the country to learn more about their experiences of recording gender based hate crime. Katie Ghose, chief executive of Women’s Aid, called on all forces to follow Nottinghamshire Police’s example and help end a culture that “normalises abuse”. She said: “In Nottingham, the police force has not seen an influx in reports of ‘wolf-whistling’; their step to classify misogyny as a hate crime has been taken seriously and the number of reports has broadly been in line with other forms of hate crime. The police have a duty to protect the public, and protecting women from male violence is absolutely imperative to this. “By making misogyny a hate crime, we can take a critical step forwards in preventing and tackling the continuum of male violence against women – from sexual harassment through to domestic abuse. Not only will it help improve women’s safety, it will also help change cultural attitudes to sexism, inequality and all forms of violence against women and girls. “We look forward to working with Cressida Dick and other police leaders to continue to transform the police response to tackling male violence against women and girls.”

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