It is impossible that there was not a lot of gossip about Carrick before now—and, before him, about Couzens and many others way into the past. Senior officers must have known and must, at some point, have turned a blind eye.
We have been here before; this is not the first time we have debated the issue in this Chamber. I have been here for nearly 10 years, and it has been debated several times, so I am sadly not convinced that determination is what is needed—there definitely needs to be an overhaul. I support all the comments that have been made.
My small knowledge of the police from the outside, and from having discussed this with many officers and former officers, is that it is impossible that there was not a lot of gossip about Carrick before now—and, before him, about Couzens and many others way into the past. Senior officers must have known and must, at some point, have turned a blind eye. That is what disturbs me the most, because this issue is not only about new recruits and officers on the street but about senior officers. It goes to the root of the problem: deep misogyny, which of course is not only in our police but in wider society, which is why it is so difficult to eradicate. The Minister has made good points on the collection of data and so on, but what makes him think that this will be any different from every failure in the past to reform the police?
Lord Sharpe of Epsom replied for HMG:
I thank the noble Baroness for those remarks. I am not going to speculate on the whole “blind eye” situation; that would be unwise given that the case, as the Lord Speaker mentioned earlier, is still very much ongoing even though there has been a plea of “guilty”.
That affords me an opportunity to talk a bit about the strategy on violence against women and girls, which is a government priority. We have taken firm action to tackle these crimes; that includes delivering more than 127 commitments, worth over £230 million, that were made in the tackling violence against women and girls strategy and the domestic abuse plan. We are implementing the Domestic Abuse Act; introducing new offences, such as threats to disclose intimate images, controlling or coercive behaviour, stalking and forced marriage; introducing new schemes allowing women to check whether their partner has a violent history; supporting Greg Clark MP’s Bill in the other place, which will create a specific offence of public sexual harassment; and launching a national communications strategy, Enough.
Those are all words; obviously, we have to deliver on those words. There is more to do. I hope to be able to say more about that from this Dispatch Box in due course. On what will be different this time, I think that the team in place is absolutely committed to making this happen; that includes in the police force and among other stakeholders, including this one.
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