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Sunday, 21 July 2024
Police could patrol nightclubs in drive to protect women
Undercover officers could patrol nightclubs.

Steps to improve safety include plainclothes patrols of bars and clubs and increased funding for streetlights and CCTVPlainclothes police officers could patrol bars and nightclubs around England and Wales, as part of plans to protect women from predatory offenders, it has been announced, after peers forced the prime minister’s arm.

The government had opposed an amendment to its domestic abuse bill that would create a national register of stalkers, but the House of Lords voted on Monday evening to send it back to MPs to consider. Within minutes, Boris Johnson announced a series of “immediate steps” to improve security.

Among them is to extend pilots of a programme in which uniformed and plainclothes officers seek to actively identify predatory and suspicious offenders at night. The measures follow a meeting of the government’s crime and justice taskforce chaired by the prime minister.Called Project Vigilant, the programme can involve officers attending areas around clubs and bars in plain clothes, along with increased police patrols as people leave at closing time.

Other steps unveiled by Downing Street include a doubling to £45m of the Safer Streets fund, which provides neighbourhood measures such as better lighting and CCTV.

No 10 also said ministers were committed to working with police forces and with police and crime commissioners to ensure the measures were more focused on preventing sexual violence. Boris Johnson said it could mean siting measures in parks and routes used by women on their walks home.

But the Labour MP Stella Creasy said that, while she would not oppose the plans, and any improvement to street lighting would be welcome, they largely missed the point.Sarah Everard was not on a night out, so the idea that putting plainclothes police officers in nightclubs is going to solve this problem doesn’t recognise that women get abused, assaulted, intimidated in all sorts of places,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Tuesday.

“Ask women who’ve gone for a run recently in broad daylight in their parks about their experiences and you’ll realise some of the scale of the challenge. And what strikes me is that 80% of women report being sexually harassed in public spaces but, in those surveys, 90% of them say they never report it because they don’t believe anything will change.”

She called for misogyny to be made a hate crime “so that existing crimes like sexual harassment, abuse and intimidation can be reported and recorded as such, so we can build up patterns of where the problems are to help the police with the way in which they investigate these issues”.Creasy noted that some forces, such as Nottinghamshire police, are already doing this with some success.

The foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, admitted there was more to do, telling Sky News: “I think it is appalling that women still suffer the fear, the intimidation, the threats – and I say that as a son, a husband and a brother of a sister.

“Of course we’ve all got – and I think the vast majority of men will feel this while recognising that women are the ones that face the brunt of this – a stake in society and we all very personally want to see the streets safe for women to walk at night.”

In an attempt to illustrate how seriously ministers were taking the issue, Raab claimed the government was “increasing the number of police by 20,000”, though in reality, this is an old policy that would simply replace the roughly 20,000 police officers cut by the Tories since 2010.

And he said the government had “two bits of legislation going through the House of Commons to increase the sentencing”, though ministers opposed the amendment to strengthen the domestic abuse bill with a register of stalkers.

Project Vigilant was originally launched in 2019 by Thames Valley police, and last year won a crime prevention award from the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

source: Kevin Rawlinson