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Public sexual harassment ‘to be outlawed’ in wake of Sarah Everard murder

·3-min read
Sarah Everard (Family handout) (PA Media)
Sarah Everard (Family handout) (PA Media)

Pestering women in the street or in pubs could be outlawed in a bid to combat sexual harassment in public.

A government-commissioned review will next week call for sexual harassment in public and inciting hatred against women to be made criminal offences, the Daily Telegraph reported.

The measures are part of an overhaul of laws designed to protect women /against violence in wake of the murder of Sarah Everard earlier this year.

However, the Law Commission – which carried out the review – has rejected calls for misogyny to be listed as a hate crime alongside race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or transgender identity.

The government is set to make a number of crime announcements in the coming weeks which will include a crackdown on gangs and prison reforms to reduce reoffending rates by helping inmates find work.

A Whitehall source told the paper: “The Law Commission is not going to class misogyny as a hate crime because it would be ineffective and in some cases counterproductive.

“But it will call for a public sexual harassment offence, which doesn’t currently exist. It thinks this fits with other work the Government is doing on criminalising intimate image abuse and will be more productive and better in protecting women.”

Sajid Javid, who was Home Secretary at the time, ordered the review into hate crimes three years ago.

The murder of Sarah Everard in March was one of a number of violent deaths that galvanised concerns over women’s safety.

Her death, at the hands of a police officer as she walked along a busy road in London at 9.30pm, led thousands of girls and women to take to the streets in Britain and share their experiences and fears.

In reaction, ministers said they would consider the possibility of imposing new laws on street harassment.

Draft legislation shows the plan could cover behaviours including intentionally pressing against someone on public transport, sexual propositioning or cornering someone, making inappropriate sexual comments or cat-calling.

Dr Charlotte Proudman, a lawyer who helped draft the bill, said: “It could be someone shouting degrading, humiliating comments with lewd language to a woman walking down the street that makes them feel unsafe.”

“If someone came up to you in a pub, didn’t leave you alone, made foul comments about your body, and was persistently following you around, maybe that would be captured.”

Sabina Nessa (Metropolitan Police/PA) (PA Wire)
Sabina Nessa (Metropolitan Police/PA) (PA Wire)

Another high-profile case that led to campaigners demanding action to tackle violence against women was the murder of Sabina Nessa in September.

Nessa, who taught in Catford, was found dead in Cator Park near her home in Kidbrooke, south east London.

The 28-year-old, who had worked helping non-English speakers develop their language skills, was eventually found hidden under a pile of leaves by a dog walker.

Sisters Uncut, the group that held a vigil for Ms Everard despite a police banning order, leading to high-profile arrests, wrote on Twitter: “Another day in the UK, another woman murdered at the hands of a violent man.

“Sabina Nessa was walking home when she was killed and her body left in a public place.

“Sabina’s story is harrowing and heartbreaking, our love and rage goes out to her family and loved ones.

“We refuse to be trapped in this cycle of grief and we will not rest until women and non-binary people are safe and unafraid!”

Read More

Campaigners welcome proposals to outlaw harassment of women

Sarah Everard did not die in vain — real reform is happening

Victims of male violence remembered as action demanded to protect women

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