London mayoral election: Susan Hall promises women’s champion to make streets safer and beat Tube sex harassment

London mayoral election: Susan Hall promises women’s champion to make streets safer and beat Tube sex harassment

Tory candidate Susan Hall has pledged to appoint a “women’s commissioner” and target sexual harassment on the Tube if she becomes mayor.

Ms Hall, in a major policy announcement on Tuesday ahead of the May 2 election, outlined her determination to respond to the fears of many women walking home at night or while using public transport.

Her plan was endorsed by an Instagram influencer, Georgie Clarke, who was left terrified after being sexually harassed on the Tube – and who received an apology from Transport for London after being merely handed a leaflet when she tried to report the incident.

The woman’s commissioner would “work with Londoners to create a fully-fledged women’s safety strategy”.

Ms Hall said she would also seek to increase the number of British Transport Police officers patrolling the London transport network.

She believes the current system places too great an onus on the victim to report crime to the BTP, rather than being able to share a “full report” with TfL staff before leaving the station. She would ensure TfL had a “robust system” to immediately assist victims of sexual harassment.

Susan Hall’s plan was endorsed by an Instagram influencer, Georgie Clarke (ES Composite)
Susan Hall’s plan was endorsed by an Instagram influencer, Georgie Clarke (ES Composite)

Ms Clarke, 30, who has more than half a million Instagram followers, said the experience of being grabbed and pursued by a man on the Tube three years ago had left her wary to use public transport.

In a conversation with Ms Hall, she said “the minute I see something that feels off to me, I will abandon my trip” and find a different route.

She added: “I feel like it’s impacted my life so much, from this one incident. I don’t feel like I got much justice. I have been left with a lifetime of making different choices to make myself feel safe.”

Ms Clarke said today: “We cannot go on as we are, where women’s concerns around travel and safety in London are not being heard, addressed or actioned.

“I personally have attempted to reach out to Sadiq Khan several times in order to communicate and bring to light the fear women live with on a daily basis in London.

“Unfortunately, these attempts have fallen on deaf ears. However, I’m thrilled that Susan Hall reached out to me in order to gather insight on the topic of women’s safety.

“Our discussion revolved around brainstorming ideas together, asking questions and listening to women’s experiences in order to discover how women in London would like to see change.”

TfL does not publish figures on the number of women who report sexual harassment on the Tube.

 (Evening Standard)
(Evening Standard)

However its most recent passenger survey found six per cent of women said they had been a victim of “unwanted sexual behaviour” on public transport in the previous three months.

More widely, there were 461 reported sexual offences on the Tube and 383 on buses between April and September last year.

Mayor Sadiq Khan appointed Claire Waxman as London’s first victims’ commissioner in 2017 and updated his strategy to tackle violence against women and girls two years ago.

But Ms Hall believes the victims’ commissioner role is too thinly spread and a specific women’s commissioner would mean a greater focus on women’s safety issues.

She said: “We deserve to feel safe in London, but Sadiq Khan just isn’t listening to women like Georgie. I am listening, which is why as mayor I will get a grip of crime and make our city safer for women.

“My plan will put more police officers on patrol, provide better support for those escaping domestic violence, put specialist violence against women and girls officers in every borough, and improve safety on the London Underground.”

Research by City University soon after the abduction and murder of Sarah Everard in 2021 found almost a third of women in the UK felt unsafe or very unsafe when walking alone at night.

A London Labour spokesperson said: “This election is a close two-horse race between Sadiq and an extreme Tory candidate, who only last week suggested police misconduct against women should be dealt with behind closed doors.

“The Tory government has imposed £1billion cuts on the Met with a devastating impact on the services that keep women safe. By contrast, Sadiq has invested a record £163million on tacking violence against women and girls in London.”