Police must take women’s complaints more seriously – peer

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A human rights lawyer has said she is tired of hearing police forces say they will “learn lessons” in the wake of a tragedy, claiming institutions often put their own reputations first.

Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, who chairs the Working Group on Misogyny and Criminal Justice in Scotland, said women experience harassment, stalking and flashing on a daily basis.

The Labour peer said the police must take this seriously and not treat such incidents as trivial.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Baroness Kennedy said: “Why should mothers have to tell their daughters when they reach puberty that they have to be careful going out and about, that it’s passed on like some ritual, telling people the facts of life.

“The facts of life that they’re going to be exposed to this kind of abusive behaviour.

“It really has to stop. And we have to be having better conversations amongst men, and men have to take responsibility for some of this, because in the daily round, women experience harassment, stalking, people flashing at them.

“It really has to end. And the police have to take it seriously and not see it as being trivial.”

She pointed out that serving police officer Wayne Couzens, who was given a whole life sentence this week for the kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard, had already given out “alarm signals” to colleagues.

The police watchdog previously said he was linked to a flashing incident in 2015 and two more just days before he killed Ms Everard.

Baroness Kennedy said: “Here was a man who already had sent out alarm signals to colleagues, who… was on the inquiry lists in relation to flashing behaviour, and yet the police, somehow, are forgiving of that.

“None of it’s acceptable. What we know is that institutions often will put their own reputations first.

“They also have come together to protect each other. That’s got to end.”

Baroness Kennedy said often things start with incidents such as flashing, being abusive to women in public spaces, and men feeling they can get away with it.

“And I’m afraid we have to be looking at male behaviour more generally, but the police certainly have to be taking women’s complaints more seriously than they have done.

“This has been going on for many, many years and I’m rather tired of hearing police forces saying we’re going to learn lessons from some tragedy.

“The lessons don’t seem to be learned, and the lessons are that women’s suffering of this kind of stuff has to stop, and women up and down the country are saying that.

“And you have to listen, and police forces are not doing that.”

She said this will require more resourcing, more police, more money put into policing and the court system, and better processes of training police and those in the justice system.

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