Campaigners welcome proposals to outlaw harassment of women

The Law Commission will recommend a new criminal offence of ‘public sexual harassment’ according to reports.

Pa Political Staff
Saturday 04 December 2021 15:38
The statue of justice on the Old Bailey (Clara Molden/PA)
The statue of justice on the Old Bailey (Clara Molden/PA)

Campaigners have welcomed reports that pestering women in the street or in bars and making lewd comments at them could become an offence under proposals to be published next week.

A review by the Law Commission will call for “public sexual harassment” and inciting hatred against women to be made criminal offences, The Daily Telegraph reported.

However, the newspaper quoted Whitehall sources as saying the commission – which advises the Government on reforms to the law – will reject calls for misogyny to be made a hate crime, arguing it would be ineffective.

The commission’s review of hate crimes was originally ordered three years ago by Sajid Javid when he was home secretary.

The issue has since become the focus of intense public interest following the murder of Sarah Everard by Wayne Couzens, a serving Metropolitan Police officer, which led to a national debate on violence against women.

Gemma and Maya Tutton, co-founders of Our Streets Now campaign, said the Government should move urgently to implement the commission’s reported recommendation.

“The recognition of existing legal gaps by the Law Commission makes it clear that the Government should urgently make public sexual harassment (PSH) a specific criminal offence,” they said in a joint statement.

“Our current legal framework to address PSH is fragmented, antiquated and has gaping holes which means that many behaviours fall through the cracks.

Sajid Javid commissioned the review when he was home secretary (Toby Melville/PA)

“Our laws reflect our society, and it is crucial that Government send a clear message that public sexual harassment will no longer be tolerated in this country.”

Rose Caldwell, chief executive of the children’s charity Plan International UK, which has also campaigned on the issue, said a new law would send a clear message that such conduct is not acceptable.

“The Government must act swiftly on this recommendation and introduce a new, comprehensive law designed to protect women and girls from the relentless threat of public sexual harassment,” she said.

Girls as young as 10 are being harassed, followed and touched, and this is having a serious impact on their mental and physical health.

“A new law will send a clear message that this is not acceptable in our society. No girl should have to fear for her safety in our public spaces.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “The Government asked the Law Commission to conduct a wide-ranging review into hate crime to explore how to make current legislation more effective, and if additional protected characteristics should be added to the hate crime legislation.

“We will respond to their recommendations once published.”

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