On Wednesday, the London Assembly police and crime committee heard from various organisations about concerns over violence against women and girls in London with a view to making recommendations to Sadiq Khan.
The Mayor of London is one of many leaders who has called for misogyny to be made a hate crime in the wake of the high-profile killings of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa, but the effectiveness of such a measure has been brought into question by groups who campaign against misogynistic violence.
Andrea Simon, director of End Violence Against Women, said that “there is an argument for the symbolicness” of making misogyny a hate crime in law, but questioned “what does that mean for women in reality?”.
Ms Simon said: “I don’t think there’s consensus around whether misogyny as a hate crime is an effective response. It’s not to say that there hasn’t been some really good work – the pilot that went on in Nottingham demonstrated how, when police forces work with local specialist services, that can be a very conducive partnership and it can mean that reporting is driven up.”
But she added: “There are concerns that misogyny as a hate crime wouldn’t necessarily lead to successful prosecutions. We do not currently prosecute domestic abuse or sexual violence anywhere near the number of reports that come into the police, and the vast majority of it isn’t reported.”
The point was echoed by Isabelle Younane, head of policy, campaigns and public affairs at domestic abuse charity Women’s Aid.
Ms Younane said: “I don’t think we’re there yet in terms of making misogyny a hate crime. I think, in principle, it’s a brilliant idea, but we’ve already seen from the CPS figures recently that charging rates are going down, prosecutions are going down in terms of domestic abuse. I think we need to sort that out before we start to create a new crime of misogyny that we then can’t meet expectations.”
Data from 30 of the 43 police forces in England and Wales released last month revealed that the number of common assaults flagged as domestic increased by 71 per cent between 2017 and 2021, while those resulting in charges fell by 23 per cent.
Police only have six months to bring charges forward for common assault – including domestic violence – which saw almost 13,000 domestic abuse cases dropped over a five-year period as the time limit expired.
Speaking at City Hall on Thursday, Donna Covey, chief executive of Against Violence and Abuse, said that there needed to be a greater focus on prevention to tackle misogyny in society.
Ms Covey said: “If we only talk about what we’re going to do for women who have already been victims rather than say ‘how do we deal with a society that is so deeply misogynistic, and where the trust that women have in the courts and in the police is so poor that men know women won’t report’ – [we must] deal with that and start questioning what messaging do we have in the world and in London that says, ‘actually, in London you can’t get away with it.”
She added: “What I want to know is when are politicians in London going to use their soft power and their ability to get stuff out everywhere to actually say, ‘this has got to stop and, men, you’ve just got to stop this’.”
Despite widespread calls to make misogyny a hate crime in the wake of Sarah Everard’s murder, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that there was “abundant” existing legislation to tackle violence against women and that he didn’t support a change in the law.