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WEST YORKSHIRE POLICE: Streets are ‘less safe for women than ever’

WEST YORKSHIRE POLICE: Streets are ‘less safe for women than ever’

Streets are ‘less safe for women than ever’, claims West Yorkshire police and crime head, Image: Google Maps

West Yorkshire’s new police and crime head has claimed that the streets are now “less safe for women than they ever have been” and that more predators “feel safe” to act out their worst impulses.

During an impassioned speech which touched on the issues of sexual abuse, online misogyny and hate crime, deputy mayor for policing Alison Lowe told a panel of Leeds city councillors that more needed to be done by authorities to help women seeking justice.

When asked about the recent problems cited by students around spiking via needles, Ms Lowe said it was something that the mayor’s office would look into, along with seeking more charges for rape cases by the Crown Prosecution Service.

Alison Lowe was appointed deputy mayor of West Yorkshire for policing and crime back in June this year. Her role replaces the former police and crime commissioner.

Speaking at a meeting of Leeds City Council’s communities scrutiny board, she said: “It feels less safe for women and girls than it ever has and, let’s be honest, it has never felt safe for women and girls.

“As someone with experience of childhood sexual abuse and domestic abuse, I can attest to the fact life has never been safe for women and girls.

“I am not an academic and I cannot tell you the reasons for that, but it just feels as though more predators feel safe to act out their worst behaviours. I think misogyny is at the heart of that – I think those misogynistic behaviours have been given permission by society.

“The impact is that there are more serious violent and sexual assaults against women and girls – probably against men as well. Victims are increasing across all harm areas.

“Hate crime is another area of crime that is predicted to rise – it has been rising every year, up 12 percent in the past 12 months.

“There is a lot of hate out there, and it is making us all less safe, but particularly women and girls.

“There are all sorts of emerging things, such as incels – who knew what that meant? It does feel like there is a much more negative, oppressive move to hate and harm women.”

“Incels” is short for “involuntary celibates” and refers to a mostly-online community of men who feel unable to attract women. Online incel forums are often seen as breeding grounds for hostility towards women and men who are sexually active.

Ms Lowe added that the Mayor’s office would push West Yorkshire Police to better protect and support women victims who may be subject to abuse.

“I don’t think we have always done everything we could have done done,” she added. “That has come out in the last few days. I’m not saying the police don’t work really hard and don’t try their best, but they are overworked and there are not enough police officers.

“We are all tired, aren’t we? But we need to speak to each other with compassion and empathy.

“It’s not just about policing – there are other parts of the system that are contributing to the lack of justice. I would point at wider criminal justice partners too.”

She said the national policy around charging by the Crown Prosecution Service – which brings criminal charges against individuals – would also need to be reviewed, and that a court should be the ones to decide whether an individual is guilty.

“I sometimes think maybe CPS are judge and jury in making a decision,” she said. “They are thinking ‘will this be found guilty by a jury and, if not, why are we going to bother even trying?’

“So sometimes things don’t get to court that should get to court. It’s up for a jury to decide, not the CPS.”

The issue of women being spiked with date rape drugs via needles was also raised.

Coun Rebecca Charlwood (Lab) said: “Over the last 11 years I have been [on the council], it feels like women’s safety has got worse, not better.

“Why has that happened? What are the causes of that? What can we do to tackle it?

“In regards to women being targeted with a date rape drug via needles in night clubs – it is terrorizing, it is really scary. I feel scared as a woman, and if I was a young woman I would be scared.”

Ms Lowe responded: “We have already started doing some investigations into the prevalence of [spiking via needles]. Spiking is not a crime on its own, so it’s hard to do it.

“They have done a search of database where needles have been used – there is only one case on the database that has been recorded in Leeds over the last three years.

“I suspect the spiking with needles is not a Leeds thing, but we need to understand what women’s experience is so we can understand. It could be that they have experienced this but not reported it to police.”

 

Words: Richard Beecham, Local Democracy Reporter


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