POLICE, CRIME, SENTENCING AND COURTS BILL DISMISSES THE REAL NEEDS OF SURVIVORS

Against the backdrop of police brutality at the vigil for Sarah Everard, today sees second reading of the new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.

This Bill contains a raft of oppressive powers which crack down on our right to protest, bundled together with draconian criminal justice ‘reforms’. The Bill is a further dangerous extension to police powers that exemplifies the rolling back of our human rights and ignores a history of violence against women at the hands of the police.

When it comes to addressing the needs of survivors of VAWG, this proposed legislation offers “ineffective technological and punitive measures dressed up as cure-all solutions”. The Government’s proposals, set out in the Bill, ignore calls from the sector for real change to the systems that perpetuate VAWG, and do nothing to address decades of underfunding for the VAWG sector, and particularly organisations run by and for Black and minoritised women.

Frontline women’s rights charity, Rights of Women, is calling for an approach to criminal justice that empowers survivors and protects their ability to express their dissent.

Hannah Couchman, Senior Legal Officer at Rights of Women, said:

“Far from reforming our broken justice system and supporting survivors of violence against women and girls (VAWG), this Bill entrenches a reliance on powerful institutions with histories of discriminatory approaches and weak accountability mechanisms and does nothing to address the underlying causes of offending – all while threatening our ability to express dissent about the state’s complicity in VAWG by fundamentally undermining their right to protest.

The introduction of polygraph or ‘lie detector’ testing for those convicted of domestic abuse demonstrates the Government’s failure to address this deep-rooted problem. At best it is a deflection from the lack of investment in improving the justice system for victims and survivors – at worst, it risks further embedding highly controversial technology in our justice system. We seek explanations as to why these proposals have been put forward at the expense of proven and established measures to support the real needs of survivors in relation to safety, justice and accountability.

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill offers ineffective technological and punitive measures dressed up as cure-all solutions – measures which will not remedy decades of under-funding for the VAWG sector which has particularly undermined the essential work done by organisations run by and for Black and minoritised women.

Violence against women is endemic in our state and society, and further enabled by systemic racism. This month, the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (CHIS) Bill passed into law, providing state agents with a lawful basis to undertake the most serious forms of violence, including sexual violence, without fear of prosecution – and the Home Office is once again attempting to extend police powers and encroach on our basic human rights.

The Government should not rush through legislation which exacerbates inequality and contains only tokenistic gestures for addressing the real issues. In a society where women are disbelieved and shamed within a criminal justice system which is supposed to protect them, we demand better – an approach to VAWG built on a rigorous evidence base which centres and empowers survivors.”

Notes

  • The Police, Crime, Courts and Sentencing Bill is a Government Bill introduced to Parliament on Tuesday 9 March 2021.
  • The Bill’s second reading is scheduled for Monday 15 March – Tuesday 16 March 2021.
  • A copy of the Bill and other Bill documents can be accessed at: https://bills.parliament.uk/bills/2839/.

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