In my view this man would make a very credible Prime Minister. I happen to have met him on one occasion and I can tell from his comment as part of the response to the Governments current proposed policing legislation that he is able to make very good statements. He was speaking on Tuesday Afternoon and put forward an amendment that would have very positively called for the Bill not to be read a second time and it would then have allowed a much more effective piece of legislation to be assembled. Thankfully there is still time to adapt a number of themes into the new Bill as long as there will be cross party support to do so. Indeed my blog for Monday which is also a piece of the Argus Newspaper sets out to explain some of the elements that need to be removed from the existing Bill and some of the elements that need to be added to it. However in his attempt to close it down David Lammy stated the following
I beg to move an amendment, to leave out from “That” to the end of the Question and add:
“this House declines to give a Second Reading to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, notwithstanding the need for a police covenant and for tougher sentences for serious crimes, including child murder, terrorism and dangerous driving, and for assaults on emergency service workers, because the Bill rushes changes to protest law and fails to introduce a single new measure specifically designed to tackle the epidemic of violence against women and is therefore an abusers’ charter since domestic abuse rates have spiked and victims of rape are facing the lowest prosecution rates on record, and because the Bill fails to criminalise street harassment, fails to make misogyny a hate crime, fails to raise minimum sentences for rape or stalking, and fails to give whole life orders to those found guilty of abduction and sexual assault and murder of a stranger.”
It is an honour to close this debate on behalf of the Opposition and to move the reasoned amendment standing in my name and that of the Leader of the Opposition. It is a debate that has involved the lion’s share of Members across this House, and of course we meet at a time of a national cry to tackle violence against women and girls.
It was in June last year, on one warm evening, amid the deep concerns about the pandemic at that time, that my wife and I, on learning and reading the news, wept together as a friend of mine, Mina Smallman, and her husband Chris lost their two beautiful daughters, Bibaa and Nicole, to terrible violence on a horrendous night in west London. We wept again just a few weeks ago because, on the evening of 3 March 2021, Sarah Everard, after visiting a friend in south London and walking across Clapham common, was spotted on CCTV at 9.30 pm and then she disappeared. The whole country and both sides of this House are mourning Sarah’s disappearance, kidnap and murder.
No story is more telling of the fact that we need tough sentences on the most serious crimes to deter criminals and protect the public, but we must not make the mistake of thinking that this horrific incident of violence against a woman is a one-off. The press may not report it, but women of all backgrounds, from all parts of the country and of all ages are killed every week. In 2016, 125 women in the UK were killed by men. In 2017, the number was 147. It was 147 again in 2018. Over the past decade, 1,425 women have been murdered in the UK. That is roughly one woman every three days.
It is not only murder; all kinds of violence against women are endemic in our country. In one year alone, 3.1% of women—510,000—experienced a sexual assault. Domestic violence has skyrocketed during the pandemic, with 260,000 domestic abuse offences between March and June. The Government knew about the crisis of violence against women and girls before this week, but when they were drafting the 20 schedules, 176 clauses and 296 pages of this Bill, they chose not to mention women once.
Maybe this Government do not like to talk about women because they know they have failed them. A decade of cuts, court closures and failed ideology is letting women down. Half the courts in England and Wales closed between 2010 and 2019. There are 27,000 fewer sitting days than in 2016. Under this Government, just 1.4% of rapes end in conviction. That is a record low and should shame us all.
As my hon. Friend Peter Kyle rightly asked, why are the Government not fast-tracking rape victims through the CPS and the courts? The Crown court backlog is now a record high of more than 56,000 cases. The Government like to pretend that is only because of the pandemic, but they have no answer to why they let the backlog grow to 39,000 before covid even hit. The result is that victims of crime are being asked to wait up to four years to get to court. Many witnesses are dropping out of the justice system entirely because of delays. Violent criminals are being spared prison because of it. As my hon. Friend Andy Slaughter rightly pointed out, discussions on the justice system must always start with delays in the system and the inadequacy of legal aid. Instead of tackling violence against women, the Government have prioritised giving the police the power to prohibit the fundamental freedoms of protest that the British public hold dear. By giving the police this discretion to use these powers some of the time, it takes away our freedom all of the time. The Government’s Bill targets protesters causing too much noise and says that those who cause annoyance could be jailed for up to 10 years. I am thankful that the draconian limits on the power to protest were not in place during the great protests of the 20th century that led to real change.