Kerb crawling should become criminal offence, Harriet Harman says

Senior MP says upcoming Police Bill gives an opportunity for change

Bethany Dawson
Saturday 13 March 2021 19:35 GMT
Girls being targeted by men in cars ‘shouldn’t happen’, says top MP
Girls being targeted by men in cars ‘shouldn’t happen’, says top MP (UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA Wire)

Campaigners are calling for kerb-crawling to be made illegal under more circumstances.

Under the 2003 Sexual Offences act, kerb-crawling – driving alongside someone who is walking down the pavement, often with the intention of engaging in sexual activity – is illegal when done to solicit a prostitute.

However, campaigners are fighting to make it illegal in more circumstances, with Labour MP Harriet Harman describing the fact that schoolgirls experienced predatory kerb crawling as “absolutely frightening”.

Speaking to ITV news, the Peckham and Camberwell MP said: “If they have to walk home and it’s dark, they can find a man in a van or a car crawls along the pavement trying to get them into the van or car in a very menacing way, absolutely frightening them. This shouldn’t happen.

“Kerb-crawling is an offence if a man is seeking a prostitute, seeking to buy sex, but it is not an offence to kerb-crawl a girl home from school, and I think it should be.”

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Ms Harman also said that the Police Bill, which is set to come through the House of Commons within the next week, posed an opportunity to extend the offence of kerb-crawling to the harassment of girls and women.

Ms Harman is also planning an amendment to the Police Bill which she has said will give victims of sexual offences the right to not have their previous sexual history examined in court.

She said: “We have the police bill coming into the [Commons] next week. There is an opportunity for the government to extend curb crawling and say, ‘Yes, it applies not just to men who are looking for prostitutes, but to men who are harassing school girls’.”

Gemma Tutton, the co-founder of campaign group Our Streets Now, which wants public sexual harassment to be a criminal offence, told The Independent: “Whilst we don’t disagree with what Harriet Harman is calling for, this kind of amendment wouldn’t bring the comprehensive solution that we need.

“This would be a piecemeal approach. By having a clear law making all public sexual harrassment illegal, we can make the kind of paradigm shift we talk about, to wider society.”

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