Thank you for contacting me about violence against women and girls.
I have always been clear that protecting women and girls from violence and supporting victims is of the utmost importance, and am acutely aware of these issues through my work as the Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative.
I am proud that this country is built on the historic values of unity, inclusivity, tolerance and mutual respect. Hate crime, in all its forms, goes directly against these values and it is completely unacceptable that anyone in our society should live in fear of intimidation or violence. As such, we must stand up for diversity and face down discrimination wherever we see it.
Since the publication of the Hate Crime Action Plan in 2016 I have been encouraged by the progress that has been made, which has seen an increase in reporting and improvements in identification and recording of crime by the police. However, rates of attrition within the criminal justice system remain worryingly high and targeted online abuse continues to present a significant problem. While in contrast to overall trends, under-reporting still exists within specific groups.
You may be aware of the wide-ranging Law Commission review into hate crime. Work on this is well underway and the review will identify any gaps within the current legislation and determine whether sex or gender should be added to hate crime law. The Law Commission's consultation closed on 24 December 2020 and I am glad those with an interest, including perhaps yourself, had the opportunity to share their views. The Government will of course consider the review's recommendations when they are complete.
I am sure you will agree in the importance of allowing the Law Commission to complete its work in this area. However, it is welcome that the Government has announced that on an experimental basis, police forces will be asked to identify and record any crimes of violence against the person, including stalking and harassment, as well as sexual offences where the victim perceives it to have been motivated by a hostility based on their sex. I understand that Ministers will shortly begin the consultation with the National Police Chiefs’ Council and forces on this with a view to commencing the experimental collection of data from this autumn.
While this is not making misogyny a hate crime, it can inform longer-term decisions once the Government has considered the recommendations made by the Law Commission.
There is of course always more work to do and it is therefore good news that the Home Secretary has appointed Nimco Ali as an Independent Adviser on Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls. Nimco Ali will advise the Home Secretary and other ministers on the government’s new Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy. It is welcome that Ministers will be bringing forward the new strategy this year.
You may welcome the fact that the Government reopened a call for evidence to further collect views from those with lived experience of, or views on, crimes considered as violence against women and girls. The survey has now closed and I understand that 162,513 responses were contributed following Sarah's death. The Government has said that responses will inform the new VAWG strategy.
I will continue to follow this vital work as it progresses.