Priti Patel accused of ‘weaponising violence against women’to justify new laws that ‘deepen inequality’

End Violence Against Women Coalition calls for two bills backed by home secretary to be scrapped

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Wednesday 06 October 2021 15:38 BST

Priti Patel has been accused of weaponising violence against women to justify new laws that will “curtail freedom and deepen inequality.”

The End Violence Against Women (EVAW) Coalition, which includes Rape Crisis, Refuge, Women’s Aid and other organisations supporting victims, called for laws championed by the home secretary in her Conservative Party conference speech to be scrapped.

Ms Patel announced an inquiry into Sarah Everard’s murderer, saying that “such unconscionable crimes and acts of violence against women and girls have no place in our society”.

“That is why I have redoubled my efforts to ensure women and girls feel safer,” she added.

“The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill extends whole life orders to child murderers and ends automatic halfway release for serious sexual and violent offenders … women and girls have said enough is enough and the Conservative Party agrees.”

EVAW called for the bill, which also contains new restrictions on protest and laws that discriminate against Travellers, to be dropped.

“We object to the weaponisation of VAWG [violence against women and girls] as a justification for both the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which will curtail our collective freedoms and deepen inequality, and the Nationality and Borders Bill, which will criminalise women and girls crossing borders to seek safety,” a statement added.

“We join a wide cross-section of society in calling for both bills to be scrapped.”

EVAW said it believed the proposed laws would have “no meaningful impact on responses to violence against women”.

The collective also said it rejected proposals to “overhaul” the Human Rights Act, which were announced by new justice secretary Dominic Raab in his conference speech.

“It is the only legal tool that allows the public to hold the police to account for serious failings, as we saw in the case of John Worboys,” the statement added.

Priti Patel announces inquiry into Sarah Everard murder

In the Worboys case, victims of the serial sex attacker won a case against the Metropolitan Police by arguing that failures to properly investigate his crimes breached their human rights.

EVAW also joined a range of victims’ groups and advocates to express concerns about the scope of the Sarah Everard inquiry announced by the home secretary on Tuesday.

It will initially focus on Wayne Couzens before being widened out to “wider issues across policing” - possibly including vetting, professional standards and workplace behaviour.

The inquiry is not currently on a statutory footing, meaning that it will rely on voluntary cooperation from the Metropolitan Police and compel evidence.

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