Police violence against women has gone on for many years, says former top judge

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Baroness Hale (Supreme Court/PA) (PA Media)
Baroness Hale (Supreme Court/PA) (PA Media)

Violence against women and girls at the hands of police officers has gone on for many years, according to the former president of the Supreme Court.

Baroness Hale of Richmond described the killing of Sarah Everard – who was kidnapped, raped and murdered by a police officer – as an “awful, awful case”.

Lady Hale, who practised as a barrister in the north of England before embarking on a judicial career, said that the abuse of women by police officers had been going on for decades.

But she refused to back calls for Dame Cressida Dick Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, to resign, saying it would not be “appropriate” for her to comment publicly.

Dame Cressida Dick (Elsa Keep/PA) (PA Wire)
Dame Cressida Dick (Elsa Keep/PA) (PA Wire)

The Met commissioner has faced calls to step down amid demands for urgent action to restore the confidence of women in policing.

Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens used his police-issue handcuffs and warrant card to stage a fake arrest so he could kidnap 33-year-old Ms Everard before he raped and murdered her.

Speaking at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, Lady Hale said: “If I had a view, I wouldn’t express it in company.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to be expressing any view about what should happen.”

Asked whether she could now comment, as she was retired, Lady Hale replied: “Especially after my retirement.”

What is new in recent weeks is the prominence given to a really, really horrible story and perhaps exacerbated by the fact that it was a young, beautiful, middle class white woman

Baroness Hale

She went on: “The only view I would express about that awful, awful case is that if you practised law in the 1970s in the north of England, you would inevitably have encountered story after story of police officers abusing their position with women.

“It is not a new phenomenon.

“What is new in recent weeks is the prominence given to a really, really horrible story and perhaps exacerbated by the fact that it was a young, beautiful, middle class white woman, whereas all those women who’ve had equally horrible experiences haven’t had the prominence.

“But it’s good if it’s getting prominence, that’s very important and I don’t mind why it’s getting prominence, as long as it is.”

Lady Hale became president of the Supreme Court in 2017 and rose to national attention when she delivered the unanimous judgment of the court that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament for five weeks two years ago was unlawful.

She retired last year.

Sarah Everard (Family Handout/CPS/PA) (PA Media)
Sarah Everard (Family Handout/CPS/PA) (PA Media)

Asked whether the decision of the court was “futile” as the Government did eventually prorogue Parliament, Lady Hale replied: “No of course not. For a start it was necessary.

“We don’t bring cases, people bring cases. There had been two cases. One brought by Mrs Miller in the English courts and the English High Court had said this is one not for us.

“There was another one brought by Joanna Cherry QC MP and 70-plus parliamentarians in the Scottish courts and the Scottish Court of Appeal had said this is something that is an important constitutional question and the Prime Minister had exceeded his powers and the prorogation is null and void.

“They couldn’t both be right. Either Parliament had or hadn’t been prorogued. So, we had no choice, we had to take the case.

“We might not have wanted to take the case, but we didn’t have any choice, we had to do it. It was incredibly important because the whole principle of the Magna Carta is that everybody is subject to the law – governors as well as the governed.

“The powers of public authorities, including ministers of the Crown, have limits – they can’t do exactly what they want to do, and it is the job of the courts to work out what those limits are.”

She added: “It is Parliament that changes the law.

“The Government may be able to command a majority in Parliament, which in practice means they mostly get their way, but it is Parliament that changes the law, not Government.”

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