We’ve all been shocked in recent months by a spate of violent attacks on women across the UK. Earlier this year, the horrific death of Sarah Everard received unprecedented press coverage – but sadly violence against women and girls is all too common. Last year, the number of female homicide victims in England and Wales reached its highest level since 2006 – up 10% on the previous year. And violence against women and girls is not limited to murder statistics. For the year ending March 2020, the Crime Survey for England and Wales estimated that 7.1% of adults aged 16 to 74 years had experienced sexual assault by rape or penetration since the age of 16. And domestic violence, already endemic across Britain, skyrocketed during the pandemic, with 260,000 domestic abuse offences between March and June 2020 alone.
We know the criminal justice system and CPS are also failing those victims who do come forward to report offences. Under this Conservative Government, rape convictions have fallen to a record low, and across the criminal justice system victims of rape are facing delays of up to four years as a result of the record-breaking backlog in the Crown Courts caused by a decade of Tory cuts and court closures.
It is clear that holistic action is needed to tackle this epidemic of violence and failure. That’s why, last week, the Labour Party published a Green Paper on Ending Violence Against Women and Girls. Our paper proposes a long-term, whole-system response that provides justice and protection for survivors as well as delivering effective prevention, and tackles social attitudes, inequality and discrimination that underpins the abuse women and girls face. This holistic approach will help to tackle underlying misogyny and inequality in society.
Here in Bristol, our Labour administration has already pledged to end domestic abuse and sex inequality in our city and a number of recommendation made by the Mayoral Commission on Domestic Abuse to make our city a safer place are now being implemented. However, there is always more to do, and it is clear that the token efforts of this Tory Government to tackle sex-based violence have fallen far short of what is needed. I will continue to work with colleagues inside and outside the Labour Party until women and girls in Bristol, and across the UK are safe on our streets, in our schools, universities and workplaces, and online.
As always, if you have any comments to share, or have been affected by the issues I’ve discussed in my column, please do get in touch with my office on firstname.lastname@example.org or 0117 953 3575 to share your experiences.