Priti Patel backs emergency phone service to protect women as they walk home

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A phone service to protect women as they walk home has received the backing of the Home Secretary following the outcry caused by the murder of Sarah Everard (Marc Ward/PA) (PA Wire)
A phone service to protect women as they walk home has received the backing of the Home Secretary following the outcry caused by the murder of Sarah Everard (Marc Ward/PA) (PA Wire)

A phone service aimed at protecting women as they walk home has received the backing of the Home Secretary following the outcry caused by the murder of Sarah Everard

A spokeswoman said the Home Office had received a letter from BT chief executive Philip Jansen proposing the emergency number be used to allow the vulnerable to have their journeys tracked and an alert triggered if they do not reach home in time.

“We have received the letter and will respond in due course,” the spokeswoman said.

This new phone line is exactly the kind of innovative scheme which would be good to get going as soon as we can

Priti Patel

“As set out in our strategy earlier this year, we need a whole of society approach to tackling Violence against Women and Girls and welcome joint working between the private sector and Government.”

The Daily Mail quoted Priti Patel as saying: “This new phone line is exactly the kind of innovative scheme which would be good to get going as soon as we can. I’m now looking at it with my team and liaising with BT.”

The telecommunications provider has run the 999 emergency number for 84 years.

The Mail reported the new “walk me home” service could be in operation by Christmas, potentially with the number 888 and the ability to summon police.

No one would be missing for hours, their whereabouts unknown. It would also allow a user to send an instant alert to the police, with just one touch

Philip Jansen

Mr Jansen said the idea came because he was filled with “outrage and disgust” after the murders of Ms Everard and Sabina Nessa.

He wrote in the Daily Mail: “There is a growing anger and desperation to take action. As CEO of BT, I am in a position to do something practical. I have been thinking about how we can use technology to tackle the problem.

“So, together with my BT colleagues, I have come up with something that I believe can help.”

He said “similar GPS technology to Uber and Google Maps” could allow a phone user to opt in to a “remote tracking mechanism”.

He added: “When activated it would automatically trigger an alert if they didn’t reach their destination within the expected time.

“The user’s named emergency contacts – usually family and friends – could then raise the alarm with the police if they could not establish the user’s whereabouts and safety.

“No one would be missing for hours, their whereabouts unknown. It would also allow a user to send an instant alert to the police, with just one touch.

“My colleagues at BT are now working on the technology and practicalities.”

However, MPs and campaigners questioned whether the Government should introduce technology and urged ministers to tackle male violence head on.

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said on Twitter: “Here’s a radical idea for you Priti – instead of tracking women’s movements as we go about our lives, how about the government actually tackles male violence instead?

“Only 1% of reported rapes result in a charge. That’s the problem, not us walking home.”

Samantha Billingham, from the Survivors of Domestic Abuse support group, tweeted: “Women could use the app to summon Police if they felt threatened. After the murder of Sarah Everard?

“Stop putting a plaster over things @pritipatel that need a bandage wrapped around to work and keep in place. Tackle the issue in hand!”

Police Federation spokesman Phill Matthews told the Mail “anything that improves people’s safety we would not be opposed to per se” but also noted there could be issues if the system “generated a load more work for police”.

Baroness Casey will lead a review of culture and standards at the Met (Metropolitan Police/PA) (PA Media)
Baroness Casey will lead a review of culture and standards at the Met (Metropolitan Police/PA) (PA Media)

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.

Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick on Friday announced Baroness Casey of Blackstock will lead the review of culture and standards at the Metropolitan Police in the wake of the murder.

Dame Cressida said it was an “important step in our journey to rebuild public trust” which would scrutinise the force’s vetting, recruitment, leadership, training and “all manner of processes to see how they reinforce the best possible standards”.

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