Sunak says he wants more people in jail to make streets safer for women

Experience of parenthood has shaped my attitude to crime, says PM

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Saturday 19 November 2022 09:01 GMT
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks to reporters on his way to the G20 (Leon Neal/PA)
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks to reporters on his way to the G20 (Leon Neal/PA) (PA Wire)

Rishi Sunak has said he is ready to see more people behind bars in order to make the streets safer for women and girls like his own daughters.

The prime minister admitted that, as a man, he had been able to take personal safety on the streets “for granted” and that the vulnerability of women and girls was only “brought home” to him after 11-year-old daughter Krishna wanted to start walking to primary school on her own.

And he said that the need to crack down on violent crime was driven home to him by the tragic death of nine-year-old Olivia Pratt-Korbel in Liverpool in August.

But Labour’s Lucy Powell warned Mr Sunak that women need action not “lip service” to make their day to day lives safer.

Mr Sunak said that as a matter of principle he wants to see crime down and accepts that this will mean jailing more people.

“Probably a logical consequence, catching more criminals is going to be part of that, which is why we’re building 10,000 more prison places over the next few years,” he said.

“We’re doing that to make sure that we have prison capacity for that.

“I looked at this as chancellor - if you put more police officers on the street and you tackle more crime, you’re going to end up with more people in jail.”

Summing up his position in conversation with reporters on his trip to Indonesia this week, he said: “We should charge more people and reduce crime and have them in jail.”

Mr Sunak said his thinking on crime was heavily influenced by his experience as a father.

“I come to it as a parent,” he said. “I have two young girls and my eldest is at the age where she’s starting to walk to places by herself - or is wanting to.

“It was because she was going to start walking to her primary school. The last term of her primary school, she turned 11, and then she was allowed to walk to school by herself.”

In the event, he said that Krishna did not end up making solo trips to school, and his position now means that her opportunity to do so will be limited for security reasons.

But he said: “You know, that brings it home. It brings it home to you as a parent… And again over the summer, with the awful things that we read about with the young girl Olivia.

“I want to make sure that my kids and everyone else can walk around safely. That’s what any parent wants for their children. It’s what anyone wants particularly for their wife or their sister as well

“In the past I’ve taken it for granted, and many of us as men have.

“What we saw in the events of the last year showed us that so many women and girls, actually for a while, have not felt as safe as they should.

“So tackling that and making it safer for people is something that’s just personally quite important to me.”

Mr Sunak said that the upheaval of moving into 10 Downing Street after his surprise elevation PM was made easier for his family because they had already lived in the flat upstairs from his official residence when he was chancellor.

In a break from recent tradition, they let chancellor Jeremy Hunt and his wife and three children take the larger flat over No 11 – complete with the golden wallpaper left by Boris Johnson -while the Sunaks moved back into more familiar surroundings.

“Because we’ve moved back to the flat that we used to live in - the “smaller” flat - in one sense it’s quite familiar for the family,so that bit has been easier than it otherwise might have been,” he said. “It happened quite suddenly so it was a bit of an adjustment for everybody and I’ve been working pretty much night and day for the last couple of weeks because there’s a lot to get through.”

In a whirlwind first three weeks as PM – taking in two trips abroad and a mini-Budget – he said the one moment he had to “stop and think” was at the festival of remembrance last weekend.

“It was a great privilege to be in the festival of remembrance,” he said. “I’ve never been there in person and to have the opportunity to do that as prime minister and to be able to pay my respects was something I’ll never forget.

“In amongst all the other work I have to do, that was a moment where I did for a few seconds actually get to just take in the responsibility that I’ve got in this new job.

“That was a pretty special moment which I won’t forget.”

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