Stella Creasy, Labour and Co-operative Party MP for Walthamstow, is campaigning to ‘include misogyny in our hate crime legislation’, meaning offences motivated by a hatred of women would be treated similarly as those motivated by racism or religious intolerance.
In an open letter to House of Lords members, bearing the names of several famous men, she calls for the Government to accept the ‘Newlove amendment’ to the Policing Bill when it is debated on January 17.
Comedian David Baddiel, former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, and former Chief Prosecutor Nazir Afzal OBE all have their names featured on the open letter, which calls for the Government to ‘modernise our hate crime laws’.
Mr Afzal today tweeted a link to the letter, tagging fellow men who signed it and writing: ‘MEN must take responsibility for MALE violence… sign the letter please.’
The Law Commission, which recommends legal changes, had in December last year argued that the move to make misogyny a hate crime would create ‘hierarchies of victims’ – and make prosecuting rape and domestic abuse more difficult.
A group of male celebrities including Michael Sheen, Jason Manford and Gary Neville are calling for misogyny to be made a hate crime
The names of Michael Sheen (left) and former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams (right) also appear on the open letter
Race, religion, disability, sexual orientation and transgender identity are the five protected characteristics under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and section 66 of the Sentencing Act 2020, but campaigners want sex and gender added to this.
FAMOUS NAMES ON STELLA CREASY’S HATE CRIME LETTER
- Nazir Afzal OBE: Former Chief Crown Prosecutor for North West England
- Rowan Williams: Former Archbishop of Canterbury
- Gary Neville: Football pundit, coach and former player who co-owns Salford City
- Michael Sheen: Welsh actor and TV producer
- David Baddiel: Comedian, author, screenwriter and presenter, who had a comedy partnership with Frank Skinner
- Fred Sirieix: French maître d’hôtel who is known for appearing on Channel 4’s First Dates and BBC Two’s Million Pound Menu
- Jason Manford: Comedian, actor, presenter and singer who appeared on Channel 4’s 8 Out of 10 Cats panel show between 2007 and 2010
- Iain Stirling: Scottish comedian, TV presenter, actor and Twitch streamer
- Richard Herring: Stand-up comedian, ventriloquist and writer
- Sanjeev Bhaskar OBE: Actor, comedian and TV presenter known for the BBC Two sketch comedy series Goodness Gracious Me
- Krish Majumdar: Chair of Bafta and documentary director
- Colin Salmon: Actor, known for playing Charles Robinson in three James Bond films
- Chris Addison: Regular panellist on Mock the Week, stand-up comedian who played Ollie Reeder in BBC Two’s The Thick of It
- Peter Jukes: Author, playwright, literary critic and blogger
Current sentencing guidelines specifically name ‘racial or religious’ aspects of higher culpability offences as aggravating factors – meaning if these played a role in the crime the punishment will likely be more severe.
The ‘Newlove amendment’, put forward by Tory life peer and former victims’ commissioner Baroness Newlove, calls for a new clause to be inserted into the bill specifically outlining ‘aggravation of offences on grounds of hostility related to sex or gender’.
Ms Creasy’s open letter states: ‘It is right that we already give judges and prosecutors discretion to treat hatred of other protected characteristics as an aggravating factor, but the continuing exclusion of misogyny and misandry from this list risks giving the impression that crimes motivated by hatred of women are somehow less serious than homophobic or racist violence.’
It adds: ‘Making this simple change would send a powerful symbol about how seriously we as a society take violence against women and girls. It is time to give all women equal protection from being targeted for harm because they are women.
‘Please vote for the Newlove amendment.’
Comedian Mr Manford had hit headlines in 2018 when it was revealed he had phone sex with a fan just five weeks before his marriage to Lucy Dyke at Manchester town hall.
He also quit the BBC’s One Show after admitting he shared sexual messages online with female fans, saying: ‘I have only myself to blame. I have never felt so low.’
He has also waded into women’s issues previously, having argued in 2015 that the BBC’s decision to put at least one woman on each comedy panel line-up ‘undermined’ female comedians, who, he said, would then think: ‘Am I here because I’m funny or because they needed one (a woman panelist)?’
But he also said that having more women on comedy nights made the events better, and when he saw a successful female act he would think: ‘Well, she’s worked harder than most blokes to get to this point.’
Gary Neville had stoked a backlash in 2015 after women’s football pioneer Tony Farmer claimed that he – along with other Manchester United legends – would set the sport back 25 years by promoting the Lingerie Football League.
Farmer, who started Chelsea Ladies to promote women’s football in 1992, claimed the Class of 92 were helping to expose female footballers and were harming the game’s progression by letting the LFL launch their inaugural match at Manchester’s Hotel Football – one of their businesses.
He said: ‘Lingerie Football is all about making the game sexual titillation for spectators and could expose players, especially young girls starting off in football, to people who view them as a sexual object rather than sportswomen.’
In 2008 then Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams became engulfed in a row when he said the introduction in Britain of some aspects of sharia, Islamic law, was unavoidable.
Williams, speaking to the BBC, said other religions enjoyed tolerance of their laws in Britain and he called for a ‘constructive accommodation’ with Muslim practice in areas such as marital disputes.
WHY IS MISOGYNY NOT A HATE CRIME?
The campaign to make misogyny a hate crime has not yet succeeded, having recently met opposition from The Law Commission and from Boris Johnson’s Government.
But the issue has been discussed for years, with then Equalities Minister Victoria Atkins saying in 2018 that Parliament must be ‘careful about creating laws that would inadvertently conflict with principles of equality’.
She said if hate crime rules were extended to gender, ‘we would have to think carefully about whether that would apply to the entire population or just half of it’.
Ms Atkins added: ‘Women are not a minority, and I would be hesitant to put us forward as one.’
John Szepietowski, from Audley Chaucer Solicitors, told the BBC that critics were concerned the category would become ‘too broad’, with any attack on a woman becoming at risk of being classed as a hate crime if the motivations of the perpetrator were not clear.
Sara Thornton, former chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said in 2018 that police forces were too ‘stretched’, and officers simply ‘do not have the resources to do everything that is desirable and deserving’.
Asked if the adoption of sharia was necessary for community cohesion, Williams said: ‘It seems unavoidable.
‘Certain conditions of sharia are already recognised in our society and under our law, so it is not as if we are bringing in an alien and rival system.’
In response, Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s office said: ‘There are instances where the government has made changes in regulations, for example to include sharia-compliant mortgage products, but in general terms, sharia law cannot be used as a justification for committing breaches of English law, nor can the principle of sharia law be used in a civilian court.’
‘The prime minister is clear that in Britain, British laws based on British values will apply,’ a spokesman said.
‘There are specific instances that get looked at on a case-by-case basis,’ he added, but only if the change was consistent with British values.
In October last year Boris Johnson brushed off calls to formally recognise misogyny as a hate crime, instead arguing the ‘abundance’ of existing laws should be better enforced rather than new legislation brought in.
The Prime Minister vowed to make domestic violence and rape the ‘number one issue’ he tackles within policing, and said the way police and criminal justice system currently handles violent crimes against women was ‘just not working’.
His comments come amid a brewing national row over women’s safety, with thousands sharing their experiences of feeling unsafe on streets, parks and other public areas in Britain.
The Met Police’s Wayne Couzens, 48, murdered Sarah Everard after using Covid laws to stage a fake arrest and kidnap the 33-year-old as she walked along a street in Clapham in March. The disgraced officer was given a life sentence at the Old Bailey.
Mr Johnson added the ‘anger over Ms Everard’s murder is a symptom’ of a ‘wider frustration that people feel’.
Asked if he believed misogyny should be a hate crime, Mr Johnson told BBC Breakfast: ‘I think that what we should do is prosecute people for the crimes we have on the statute book.
‘That is what I am focused on. To be perfectly honest, if you widen the scope of what you ask the police to do, you will just increase the problem.
‘What you need to do is get the police to focus on the very real crimes, the very real feeling of injustice and betrayal that many people feel.’
IN FULL: STELLA CREASY’S OPEN LETTER CALLING FOR MISOGYNY TO BECOME A HATE CRIME
Stella Creasy, Labour and Co-operative Party MP for Walthamstow
We support the call to include misogyny in our hate crime legislation to help identify and hold to account those who target, abuse and harass women simply for who they are – it is time to stop expecting women to find ways to tackle male violence, and start asking how we can stop it from happening in the first place. Please join us adding your name to this open letter to members of the House of Lords for the Government to accept the Newlove amendment to the Policing Bill when it is debated on Monday 17th January 2022.
- Nazir Afzal OBE
- Rowan Williams
- Gary Neville
- Michael Sheen
- David Baddiel
- Fred Sirieix
- Jason Manford
- Iain Stirling
- Richard Herring
- Sanjeev Bhaskar OBE
- Krish Majumdar
- Colin Salmon
- Chris Addison
- Peter Jukes
Dear Members of the House of Lords,
We are writing to you to urge you to support the Newlove amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill which would modernise our hate crime laws and ensure that crimes motivated by the sex or gender of the victim are treated as hate crimes.
The events of the last year have shown the urgent need for work to be done both to tackle violence against women and girls, and assure the public that the police are treating this violence with the seriousness it warrants. With only a third of women currently saying they report the crimes they experience, it is vital to reform the way in which both our courts and our police approach violence against women and girls.
Nearly a year ago the Government pledged to rollout the recording of crimes motivated by hatred of sex to all police forces in England and Wales by the autumn of 2021, but as yet this has not happened. So too at present our criminal justice system does not have the capacity to recognise the seriousness of violence motivated by a hatred of someone’s sex or gender. It is right that we already give judges and prosecutors discretion to treat hatred of other protected characteristics as an aggravating factor, but the continuing exclusion of misogyny and misandry from this list risks giving the impression that crimes motivated by hatred of women are somehow less serious than homophobic or racist violence.
This amendment is a practical opportunity to learn from policing best practice in recognising how misogyny drives crime and ensure our courts can act as well. It also reflects the work of the Law Commission on hate crime and violence against women which urged caution to ensure serious sexual violence and domestic abuse sentences were protected. Passing this amendment would enable us to be confident crimes motivated by hatred of someone’s sex or gender will be treated with the same seriousness that racist, homophobic or ableist crimes receive by the police – and our courts to use aggravated sentences for such crimes where appropriate.
Making this simple change would send a powerful symbol about how seriously we as a society take violence against women and girls. It is time to give all women equal protection from being targeted for harm because they are women. Please vote for the Newlove amendment.
Source: Daily Mail UK