Travellers urged to act against ‘inappropriate’ sexual behaviour

·3-min read
Travellers urged to act against ‘inappropriate’ sexual behaviour
Travellers urged to act against ‘inappropriate’ sexual behaviour

Transport police are urging people to intervene when they witness incidents of sexual harassment in the country's trains.

Sexual offences on the rail network are up by more than third (34%) since before the pandemic, figures by the British Transport Police (BTP) show.

The period 2021-22 saw 20 more incidents compared to 2019-20.

It is hoped the new Speak Up, Interrupt campaign will encourage those who witnesses any form of “inappropriate sexual behaviour” on the rail network to report them, and safely intervene if they can.

However, a regional organiser for transport union RMT warned that Scotland's train stations are "magnets for anti-social behaviour" due to insufficient staffing by officers.

Mick Hogg, told BBC's Radio Scotland that the scheme is "nonsense" and added: "There's not enough British Transport Police in Scotland, there is only 230 British Transport Police.

Of Scotland's 339 rail stations, only 143 stations are staffed by the force, he warned.

He said: "There's not enough British Transport Police and it is certainly not the role or responsibility of the passengers and it certainly is not the role or responsibility of our members to actually intervene."

However, he did encourage such incidents to be reported which will be made easier by the launch of BTP's new Railway Guardian app or people can text 61016 to inform officers.

Launching the campaign, BTP Detective Chief Inspector Arlene Wilson said the force is "not asking people to police the railway".

She said: “Everyone has a part to play in driving out sexual harassment. We would like passengers on the rail network and subway to make use of our text service and Railway Guardian App to seek support.”

She added: “We are not asking people to police the railway, that’s our job, being an active bystander or reporting an incident to us can make an enormous difference.”

READ MORE: Police drop sexual harassment inquiry into MP Patrick Grady

The police officer told the public: “Your reports provide us with crucial information which helps build a picture of what’s happening on the rail network and subway to identify hotspots, deploy patrols and catch offenders.

“In the meantime, our officers are out across the network day and night looking out for you.”

Minister for Transport Jenny Gilruth backed the “important campaign”, adding: “All of our passengers and staff have the right to travel on public transport without fear of being sexually assaulted, verbally or physically abused or harmed and we all have a part to play.

“I thank British Transport Police for their work to make our railways safer for everyone and encourage passengers and staff alike to help drive out all inappropriate behaviour.”

Joanne Maguire, chief operating officer at ScotRail, said: “Everyone has the right to go about their day in peace without fear of harassment or abuse, and ScotRail works very closely with British Transport Police to ensure that Scotland’s railway is a safe environment for our customers, and our own people.

“While the number of sexual offences may have risen, it is encouraging that the number of reported notifiable crimes in Scotland, including sexual offenses, remain among the lowest in the UK.”

Ms Maguire added: “To assist us in tackling unacceptable behaviour, it’s important for anyone who witnesses it to report those responsible so that they can be brought to justice.”

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