BT in talks with government over new 888 emergency number aimed at women walking home alone

Priti Patel backs ‘innovative’ mobile app proposed in wake of murder of Sarah Everard

Conrad Duncan
Saturday 09 October 2021 01:35

Related video: The Metropolitan Police has launched a review into its culture and standards following the murder of Sarah Everard by an officer

Leer en Español

Plans are being put together for a new emergency number aimed at protecting women walking home alone over widespread fears about safety following the murder of Sarah Everard.

BT, which runs the existing 999 service, has submitted proposals for a mobile app that would allow people to have their journeys tracked, with an alert to make sure they have returned home.

Philip Jansen, the company’s chief executive, told the Daily Mail he was prompted to work on the idea by the murders of Ms Everard and Sabina Nessa.

The newspaper reported on Saturday that home secretary Priti Patel was supportive of the idea, which Mr Jansen said could cost £50m to set up.

“This new phone line is exactly the kind of innovative scheme which would be good to get going as soon as we can. I'm now looking at it with my team and liaising with BT,” Ms Patel was quoted as saying.

Under the plans, users would be able to call or text 888 to give an estimate of how many minutes they expect to take to get back to their home address or other safe destination.

Their journey would then be tracked using GPS and the app would send a message to check that the user has made it home safely – a failure to respond would lead to emergency contacts being alerted.

“It's very rare that people get kidnapped, raped and murdered, and the whole story is just awful. But what is not rare is the number of people who feel worried or fearful on a walk home,” Mr Jansen said.

“It happens every day in massive numbers, with people walking by themselves, looking over their shoulder, constantly worried.”

He added that the app could help to prevent people from going missing for hours before the alarm is raised and could help to deter criminals, who would know that friends and family could be alerted within minutes.

The Mail reported the new "walk me home" service could be in operation by Christmas, potentially with the number 888.

Mr Jansen also noted that there were issues to resolve with the plans, such as on funding, privacy and the potential for misuse, but said he hoped ministers would seriously consider the idea.

“There needs to be proper discussion and debate about the technicalities, but I am confident that we can make it work,” the telecoms boss said.

“I am not a politician, I can't change society, but if I can use innovative technology to improve personal safety, then I am determined to do so.”

A Home Office spokesperson confirmed to The Independent it had received BT’s proposal and would respond “in due course”.

“As set out in our strategy earlier this year, we need a whole of society approach to tackling violence against women and girls and welcome joint working between the private sector and government,” the spokesperson said.

It came after the Metropolitan Police announced that Baroness Casey of Blackstock would lead a review of culture and standards at the force in the wake of Ms Everard's murder.

Ms Everard was killed by an officer who used his police-issue handcuffs and warrant card to stage a fake arrest in order to kidnap her.

On Friday, the Met Police also said that an “urgent examination” was underway to review all current investigations of sexual and domestic abuse allegations against officers and staff.

Additional reporting by PA

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in