Domestic Abuse Bill Committee Stage Day 5

Misogyny and sexism are deeply embedded in our society, we have enshrined our condemnation of racism and homophobia in law, but we are not treating sexism as the same kind of priority and it is time that we did. Domestic abuse training for the police is part of what will help them to take misogynistic crime seriously. We also need to better protect the survivors of domestic abuse through granting them anonymity in court.

Speaking to an amendment on misogyny as a hate crime, tabled by Lord Russell of Liverpool, Jenny said:

I am absolutely delighted to be a signatory to this long overdue amendment. It relates to a policy that I have advocated for years—that we should make misogyny a hate crime. Part of the problem is that misogyny and sexism are deeply embedded in our society. The noble Baroness, Lady Bull, talked about a protective kindness from men towards women. Quite honestly, we do not need that. Misogyny and sexism can be covered up by teasing and even flattery, but it is totally inappropriate and it is time that men learned that. We have enshrined our condemnation of racism and homophobia in law, but we are not treating sexism as the same kind of priority and it is time that we did.

According to statistics, 90% of British women experienced street harassment before the age of 17. Street harassment is being shouted at. We are not talking about wolf-whistling; we are talking about men shouting at women, making them embarrassed and perhaps making them feel less free to walk down a street. Eighty-five per cent of women aged 17 to 24 have been subjected to unwanted sexual advances. Can your Lordships imagine that—that 85% of women have been groped by people whom they do not want to be groped by? Therefore, it is time to make misogyny a hate crime.

The amendment is long overdue and I hope that the Minister will say that she accepts it completely. Several noble Lords have talked about Nottinghamshire Police being trailblazers on this. It has seen a 25% increase in the reporting of misogynistic crime and a very high level of satisfaction among the people—mainly women—who have reported those crimes, because finally they have been taken seriously. As noble Lords have also said, only 11 out of 43 police forces in England and Wales have made misogyny a hate crime, have trialled it or are actively considering implementing this.

Part of the problem is that, just as the police are representative of society, there will be police officers who are sexist and misogynistic. This means that they need training. I have in the past mentioned the sort of domestic abuse training that some police forces are already getting. It makes the officers aware of exactly what happens and creates more empathy for the people who are being abused. For me, domestic abuse training is part of what will help to solve this problem that we have of misogyny. I hope that standing up and talking about it here will also help.

It would be a real shame for this amendment not to be accepted on to the statute book, but will the Minister at least promise to open a debate on this issue among police forces? It is in her power to do that. I would be very pleased if she accepted this amendment but, if not, could she take it forward in any way that she can?

Jenny also tabled Amendment 159 to grant anonymity to domestic abuse survivors in criminal proceedings. she explained:

I have tabled this probing amendment because I am trying to address the woeful under-prosecution of domestic abuse and domestic violence in our courts. I do not think that the courts are quite set up to secure justice for survivors. Part of the problem is the intrusive nature of court into the survivors’ lives. The nature of domestic abuse means that deep and intimate details of a survivor’s life and their abuse can be exposed to the public eye. These intimate details can be exploited by the tabloid press or be the subject of trolling on social media. The higher the profile of the abuser or survivor or the more extreme the abuse, the more likely they are to face that media circus.

This should not be happening. Intrusion into survivors’ lives has to stop; they are revictimised and exploited by this publicity, which is incredibly damaging. Other survivors see this and it makes them less likely to report crimes that have been committed against them. It forces people to maintain secrecy for fear of becoming the latest victim of a media circus.

The courts are not currently set up to help survivors avoid this media chaos. There is scope for a survivor to seek a reporting restriction, but this is limited to situations where the restriction would help improve the quality of evidence or the level of co-operation given by a witness in preparing the case. This is not necessarily a survivor-focused approach; it is actually focused on helping the court to have the best available evidence, rather than the rights and protections of survivors. I hope that the Government will work with me to improve this. There must be some way to find agreement on the need to protect survivors, while allowing them to tell their story and obtain justice.

She withdrew her amendment but said: I realise this is a tricky subject to legislate on, but I think there is a problem and we need to fix it in some way. I thank the noble Lords, Lord Paddick and Lord Rosser, for their largely sympathetic comments. I heard the Minister say that justice must not only be done, it must be seen to be done. In that case, I would like him to go, perhaps, one of these days, to the High Court and see what is happening in the spy cops inquiry, where Judge Mitting—or rather the Met—is giving anonymity to many police officers who have committed crimes. Therefore, it does seem to me that somehow there is justice for some and not for others. I will, of course, withdraw the amendment now, but I still think this is a problem and that there has to be some way of sorting it out.