Many constituents have contacted me with serious concerns about the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill that will be presented to parliament this week.
I and my Labour colleagues will be voting against this dreadful Bill. The tragic death of Sarah Everard has seen a national demand for action to tackle violence against women. With this Bill the Tory Government had an opportunity to show they are serious about putting in place protections for women against unacceptable violence, with meaningful action against domestic homicides, rape and street harassment. Instead the Tories have brought forward a Bill that could lead to harsher penalties for damaging a statue than for attacking a woman. In a Bill that is 296 pages long, with 176 clauses and 20 schedules, the explanatory notes discuss statues but make no mention of women.
The behaviour of the police at Clapham Common this weekend was unacceptable and shameful. The arrest of women peacefully attending a vigil of remembrance to mark the appalling murder of a young women, was horrifying. In their response to this, the last thing the Tory Government should be doing is pushing through poorly thought-out measures and imposing disproportionate and draconian controls on the right to protest.
There are measures and reforms in this Bill that I support, including increased sentences for those convicted of terrorism and other dangerous offences, measures on sexual abuse by people in positions of trust, and assaults against emergency workers. Labour are calling for increased minimum sentences for rapists and stalkers, and the introduction of a whole life tariff for anyone found guilty of a stranger abductor murder. We are also urging the government to fully accept the recommendations of the Lammy Review to address racial unfairness in the criminal justice system.
At this moment of national outcry about the level of violence faced by women and girls, this Bill is a missed opportunity to tackle this issue with effective and meaningful legislation, from a Tory government that does nothing to support those living in fear.