Violence against women is ‘national emergency’, say Scottish Labour

The party has called for misogyny to be included in hate crime legislation.

Violence against women is ‘national emergency’, say Scottish Labour iStock

Violence against women is a “national emergency”, ministers have been warned, amid calls for misogyny to be recorded as a hate crime.

It comes after Wayne Couzens was last week jailed for life over the kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard.

Following the case, Police Scotland said it will introduce an additional means of verification of officers to give reassurance to provide further reassurance to those who may feel vulnerable.

Scottish Labour has now reiterated its calls for misogyny to be includes in hate crime legislation.

The party had called for it to be included in the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill, which was passed at Holyrood in May.

But, an amendment by the party was voted down, whilst a working group chaired by Baroness Helena Kennedy QC gives consideration to whether there are gaps in the law that need to be addressed.

Earlier this week, Scotland’s justice secretary Keith Brown said ministers would be guided by the findings of the group, but suggested that misogynistic abuse could become a ‘stand alone offence’.

Brown also said that men must change their behaviour, with too many women feeling that the justice system does not serve them well.

Scottish Labour’s justice spokesperson Pauline McNeill said the Government had “failed to act”.

“It is beyond dispute that violence against women is a national emergency – but action has been woefully lacking,” she said.

“It is encouraging to hear the justice secretary talk the talk on misogynistic hate crime, but his government has failed to act time and time again. 

“From criminal justice to social security to planning, there is so much more that could be done here and now to improve women’s lives.”

McNeill said that it should not take “horrific” high-profile cases to press ministers into taking action.

The Labour MSP continued: “Every day of delay is another day that women are left behind, without these added protections.

“We know that thousands of women each year are the victims of violence and abuse.

“It should not take horrific, high-profile cases to spur the government into action.”

She added: “It’s high time that the SNP wakes up to endemic nature of misogyny and act now to make it a hate crime.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Violence against women is abhorrent and totally unacceptable, and our Equally Safe Strategy sets out our ambition to eradicate it in all its forms.

“Our focus is on preventing such abuse and we have committed to invest over £100m to support frontline services and focus on prevention of violence against women and girls.

“We are absolutely clear that women and girls should not feel unsafe or experience harassment, abuse or violence which is why we set up the independent Working Group on Misogyny and Criminal Justice in Scotland led by Baroness Helena Kennedy QC.

“The group is gathering oral and written evidence from a number of experts and from a large survey to determine what more we can do to deal with misogynistic conduct, including street harassment.”

They continued: “As the cabinet secretary for justice made clear at the weekend this work is progressing well and includes discussion on whether a specific criminal offence of misogyny is needed to change behaviours and help address these concerns.

“It is also looking at whether to add the characteristic of ‘sex’ to the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act.”

“The group will submit its report on its findings and recommendations in February 2022.”

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