Wolf whistling or making sexist remarks on London’s streets could become a hate crime.
The Metropolitan Police today revealed it is speaking with other UK forces to assess whether it is worth cracking down on gender-based hate crimes after a pilot scheme was launched in the East Midlands last year.
The trial, led by Nottinghamshire Police, saw sexist incidents like street harassment, verbal abuse and taking photos without consent recorded as hate crimes, carrying tougher penalties for offenders.
Police chiefs are now considering rolling out the idea elsewhere in the UK, suggesting a harsher stance on everyday sexism could stop it escalating into sexual harassment or assault.
Police believe halting misogynistic remarks could go towards lowering serious sexual violence crimes overall.
A Scotland Yard spokesman told the Standard: “We have been speaking to other forces about their experiences of the practicalities of recording gender based hate crime and will use this, along with feedback from our partners, to inform any future changes to MPS policy.”
Earlier this week the National Police Chiefs Council’ head of hate crime told the Commons’ women and equalities committee that the current policing debate surrounds whether to take action on sexism earlier on.
Assistant chief constable Mark Hamilton told MPs: “Issues such as on street behaviour that people feel should be accepted as part of the interaction of daily life actually has a detrimental and damaging impact.
“Sexual harassment of a woman or a girl at a bus stop by a male might be some things that some women feel they are just going to have to accept, that no one’s going to do anything about it.
“The debate in policing now is moving much more to identify those issues in the same way as we would other types of incident or crime, establishing if a crime has been committed or not.
“But even if a crime hasn’t been committed the debate now is similar to hate crime incidents.
“Should we be taking action of some variety to address the behaviour before it escalates into a crime and also most importantly to try and restore some confidence to the victim and make them feel that what happened to them is being addressed somewhere.”
Dozens of women reported misogynistic crimes to Nottingham Police in the first few months of the pilot scheme, the force said. Sexist offences were reported at a similar rate to other hate crimes.
A hate crime is considered to be any incident where someone is targeted because of their identity – whether it be race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or an alternative sub-culture like being a goth.
It can take any shape and is not always illegal behaviour, officers say.