I think it’s safe to say that I have had enough. This week, I have sat across the table from victims bringing me cases of child sexual exploitation, two rapes, a very violent gang rape, two different cases of grooming gangs and a severe incidence of modern slavery. In every one of these cases, not a single charge has been filed.
This week, I have sat with police officers who know that they cannot promise safety and security to a victim who gives them information. The police cannot gather evidence because there is no safe place for the victim to go so that she can be safe from threats. They are exasperated.
This week, I sat with two different people waiting to hear if they can even be considered victims of modern slavery. Both were British citizens who had been trafficked for sex as adults and children. It might take up to a year for the government to make the decision.
This week, I have cried more than I did last week, when to be honest I was pretty bereft. This week, back in my office, I laid my head on my desk in despair and hopelessness, because when all is said and done, after the hours and hours I have spent trying to help all these women, after the hours of police time, after the hours of support worker time, the likelihood is that every single one of the perpetrators of these violent and sexual crimes will walk free. These women will likely be raped and abused again and so too will other women, by the same perpetrators. Like I said, I have had enough.
This week, I challenged the home secretary, Priti Patel, on her actions to improve prosecutions through police training on domestic abuse. Nearly half of all police forces in England and Wales have not undertaken the Domestic Abuse Matters Training that is shown to improve arrest rates for coercive and controlling behaviour by 41 per cent.
So what has the home secretary done to make sure this is happening in all forces, not just half, because clearly it would help lock up the bad guys? I didn’t get an answer. I suspect it is because she has done nothing to make sure training happens. Her response was that she didn’t like my tone. My tone is the least of her worries; the falling conviction rate of domestic abusers should be her main concern.
It appears that when I actually ask the home secretary to be tough on crime, she doesn’t like my tone. The Conservative Party didn’t like our tone when we repeated what had been said by victims, and by the Independent Victims Commissioner, and charities that support victims.
Under the home secretary’s watch, more rapists are left to walk the streets. Priti Patel may not like my tone, but I don’t like that this week, I sat opposite multiple rape victims, one who still bore the physical signs of her fresh assault, knowing that the likelihood is that their rapists will face no justice. That these women are more likely than their perpetrators to end up homeless because of what has happened, that their employment and future prospects will be more damaged by their rapes than that of their rapists.
The government wants to come across as tough on crime and hard on traffickers and foreign criminals, but the tough and often vicious rhetoric doesn’t come anywhere close to matching its performance. They are interested in quick headlines rather than detail and the effort that is actually needed to help people.
Regardless of what they have been saying all week about cracking down on foreign criminals in this country, they are in reality as good at managing to stop foreign criminals as they are at convicting rapists. Not very. The number of foreign criminals living freely in the UK has this year, for the first time ever, exceeded 10,000 and deportations of these criminals is at its lowest rate ever. Priti Patel would blame a failed system for this terrible and dangerous performance, but someone should gently point out to her that it has been this Conservative government in power for the last 11 years.
Violent crime is up on her watch, the number of domestic homicides is up and rising under our home secretary. There are things that are falling. Like rape convictions, the charging of sexual offenders, convictions for child abusers and child sex offenders. Priti Patel and Boris Johnson can wrap themselves in flags and pretend to be British bulldogs on crime but the data, and my anecdotes from the week, tell me that they are not even poodles.
No wonder the government wants us talking about flags. It’s better than us talking about the cold hard facts, the facts that literally dripped blood onto the floor where I stood this week. Rapists will walk free this week, child groomers will groom, and traffickers will traffic with impunity. So no, home secretary, I will not mind my tone. Sorry if that’s too tough for you.
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