Public sexual harassment to be made a crime

Boris Johnson planning week of law and order announcements with focus on drugs and protection for women

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Saturday 04 December 2021 18:13
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Pestering women in the street with lewd comments could become a crime under plans to outlaw “public sexual harassment” to be announced next week.

The move is one of a series of law and order measures to be unveiled in a series of government announcements, which will also see Boris Johnson pledge to dismantle 2,000 “county lines” drug gangs and introduce drug-testing on arrest for all offences.

Anyone testing positive will be given a choice of rehabilitation support or tougher treatment by the criminal justice system.

A separate white paper on prisons will crack down on drugs by forcing staff and visitors to walk through airport-style scanners and be checked by sniffer dogs.

Meanwhile, police will be encouraged to identify drug-users from phone numbers recorded on dealers’ phones and target them with messages urging them to seek support to get off illegal substances. And an advertising campaign on university campuses will warn students off getting involved with drugs.

Neither Downing Street nor the Home Office would today discuss what is expected to be a series of announcements over the coming week.

But a Whitehall source told the Daily Telegraph that a new offence of public sexual harassment could cover behaviour like intentionally pressing against someone on public transport, persistent sexual propositioning or leering at a person and cat-calling.

Dr Charlotte Proudman, a barrister who helped draft the proposed bill, told the paper: “It could be someone shouting degrading, humiliating comments with lewd language to a woman walking down the street that makes them feel unsafe.

“If someone came up to you in a pub, didn’t leave you alone, made foul comments about your body, and was persistently following you around, maybe that would be captured.”

The proposal is set to be included in a review of hate crimes by the Law Commission, which is not however expected to back calls for a crime of misogyny.

Mr Johnson is expected to announce on Monday that he will give an extra £145m to police towards meeting a new 2024 target of tripling the number of county line networks distributing drugs like heroin and crack from cities to areas around England and Wales, according to The Times.

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