I have been contacted a lot over the weekend about the tragic death of Sarah Everard and the events since.
Like many across the country, I am deeply shocked and saddened by the developments in this case. Following the devastating events which ultimately led to Sarah Everard’s death I have spent the past few days speaking to, and hearing from women about their experiences. Whilst I cannot fully understand, I am focussed on educating myself on the issues surrounding women’s safety. My thoughts are with Sarah’s family and friends at this very distressing time. The Prime Minister has been clear that all the answers to this horrifying crime must be found and I send my support to all those who are investigating.
The impact of Sarah’s case far outreaches the topic of women’s safety on our streets, yet encompasses the need to address women’s safety across all aspects of their lives. I appreciate that this issue is not confined to London, and I am well aware that there are women and girls across the country and in our constituency who will be deeply affected by the news of Sarah’s death. No-one should be forced to change the way they live to avoid harassment and abuse; every woman and girl should feel safe to walk our streets without fear.
I did find the images from the vigil at Clapham Common upsetting. This event, for so many, was an important moment of reflection and an opportunity to pay their respects. I am saddened that an event with intentions to remember Sarah resulted in the police feeling the need to take decisive action. I understand that both the Home Secretary and Prime Minister have spoken to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner following the deeply concerning footage that circulated online. I support the comprehensive review that has been announced and I believe that it is only right that the review is undertaken to ensure the right lessons are learnt. I do believe it is important we understand all the information regarding the circumstances of the event before we pass judgement. I will continue to monitor developments extremely closely as I know this issue is something my constituents across Wells feel very strongly about.
While all our thoughts are with Sarah’s loved ones, family, and friends, many have asked for clarification on some elements of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill and so it is right I do that,
One of the biggest promises made in the 2019 manifesto was to cut crime and, in turn, support victims. I want to be clear - this includes female victims of abhorrent crimes which have been the centre of the national conversation over the past week.
The Bill itself is complex, and one which is only at its second reading and so it is important to note there will undoubtedly be amendments made over the course of the legislative process. To be clear, the Government is continuing with its commitment to bring about tougher sentences for the most serious crimes. This Bill proposes tougher sentences for child murderers, tougher sentences for sex offenders, Kay’s Law, which will provide better protection for victims and witnesses in case of violent and sexual offences; and dozens of measures to crack down on knife and violent crime, and protect emergency workers, such as paramedics from assault.
I note that there has also been much made about increasing the powers of the police when it comes to protests. This Government understands how important the right to protest is and will continue to ensure peaceful protests without disruption continue but it is also important that any disruption to the public is appropriately dealt with.
The events on Saturday particularly highlighted the fact we are still in a national lockdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic. But I want to assure you this Bill will not take anyone’s right to protest – or attend a vigil in memory of someone – away.
We must continue to have difficult conversations about how we ensure women feel safe and I know colleagues from across the political spectrum all agree on this and are committed to making a difference in the House of Commons.