Sunday, 24 October, 2021

Police must take harassment more seriously: Priti Patel

Police must take harassment more seriously: Priti Patel

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LONDON: British police must take harassment and flashing more seriously, Priti Patel said, as forces face questions over how violence against women is dealt with in the wake of Sarah Everard's murder, reports BBC.

The Britain's home secretary said police had to "raise the bar" and treat everybody "with respect, dignity and seriously".

Boris Johnson called police failure to tackle such violence "infuriating".

There are calls for an inquiry into police misogyny after a Met officer was jailed for murdering Everard.

Wayne Couzens falsely arrested the 33-year-old in order to abduct, rape and murder her, and the Metropolitan Police is facing questions over its failure to stop him.

Patel told the Daily Telegraph: "I would say to all women: give voice to these issues, please... There is something so corrosive in society if people think that it's OK to harass women verbally, physically, and in an abusive way on the street and all that kind of stuff.

"I want women to have the confidence to call it out. I don't see all of this as low level."

The Metropolitan Police has issued guidance about what women should do if challenged by a lone plain-clothes officer.

Suggestions include asking "very searching questions" and requesting to speak to an operator on a police radio.

Waving down a bus, running into a house or calling 999 is advised in the event someone believes they are in "real and imminent danger".

Sue Fish, former chief constable of Nottinghamshire Police, called the guidelines "completely absurd" and "impractical", adding that the Met Police "have absolutely no insight whatsoever".

Fish was chief constable of Nottinghamshire Police in 2016 when it became the first force to record misogyny as a hate crime in an attempt to tackle sexist abuse.

She criticised what she sees as a lack of action from Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick, who is facing calls to resign over the force's handling of the case.

Making misogyny a hate crime made a "significant difference" in Nottinghamshire, Fish told BBC2's Newsnight, adding that Dame Cressida should have taken similar steps in the Met.

"This isn't about an individual officer. This is about a prevailing culture within policing and it has to be broken. It has to have been broken many years ago," Fish said, adding that a public inquiry was needed around policing and misogyny.

Couzens - who has been sentenced to a whole-life prison term - is believed to have been in a WhatsApp group with five police officers who are now being investigated for gross misconduct.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct is investigating the five, and one former officer, for distributing "grossly offensive", obscene or menacing material. Couzens is understood not to be one of those under investigation, but was involved in sharing messages.

Alice Vinten, who served in the Met for more than 10 years as a constable before leaving the force in 2015, said "it was very much a lads' culture" when she worked there.

However, she told BBC Radio 4's Today programme women were worried to report concerns about their colleagues because this was still "stigmatised".

Lord Blair, who served as Met commissioner between 2005 and 2008, said policing was now 40% women so it "simply cannot be the case that the lads' culture of the 1970s is surviving everywhere".

Johnson acknowledged to the BBC that there is a "problem" in how police tackle male violence against women, but has insisted forces can be trusted.

He told the Times that too many women were "finding their lives lost to this system" while waiting and hoping for their cases to be taken seriously.

The PM added: "There's another problem, which is partly caused by the failure of the criminal justice system to dispose of these [cases]. Are the police taking this issue seriously enough? It's infuriating. I think the public feel that they aren't and they're not wrong."

Meanwhile, there are calls for North Yorkshire commissioner Philip Allott to resign after he said women need to be "streetwise" about powers of arrest, adding that Ms Everard "never should have submitted" to the arrest by her killer.

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer condemned the comments, saying: "I can't think of a more inappropriate thing for a police and crime commissioner to say at any time, but at this time in particular."