Yvette Cooper: “Major overhaul” needed to tackle violence against women and girls

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper
-Credit: (Image: Lucy North/PA Wire)

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper has said a "major overhaul" is needed to tackle violence against women and girls on Teesside. Ms Cooper was in Hemlington, in the Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland constituency, to chat with representatives from charities within the Cleveland Women’s Network.

The roundtable discussion, with representatives from the Halo Project, Arch Teesside, and A Way Out, was focussed on violence against women and girls and how to go about reducing the problem. The Shadow Home Secretary appeared alongside Luke Myer, Labour ’s candidate for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland.

Speaking exclusively to Teesside Live, Ms Cooper answered questions regarding her discussion with the local charities. She also addressed one of the most common issues that had come up from speaking to the voters in Teesside over the past week: immigration.

Prior to the conversation with the Labour representatives, Nicky Harkin, Chief Executive of Arch Teesside explained that she wanted “some sort of commitment that our work is valued”.

When asked what her biggest takeaway from the roundtable discussion was, Ms. Cooper said “I think what’s really clear is that violence against women and girls is basically an epidemic and yet it’s not being taken seriously enough. It’s not being taken seriously enough by the police, by the criminal justice system and by the Government for far too long.

“You have organisations that are working really hard to pick up the pieces. Fundamentally what we need is a major overhaul of the way the whole system works to tackle things like domestic abuse and rape and sexual assault and to make sure that we are properly taking seriously these dangerous crimes.”

Claire Preston, Chair of Trustees of the Halo Project, raised the idea at the roundtable of getting the police to join them for a week to receive specific, targeted training. After the event, she spoke to Teesside Live to explain more.

Claire said: “We do lots of work to train and educate professionals, so that we have more appropriate support for victims, but there’s so much more that needs to be done. Can you imagine the impact of having some police that came into voluntary organisations, charities, and spent some time understanding the challenges that we’re facing and what our women and families are facing.

“It’s different to education in the classroom, or training, they need to see first hand how we deal with these cases and what actually is happening and the impact that has on families and communities.”

When this proposal was put to Ms Cooper, she did not throw her complete support behind it, but she did say this: "We want to make sure that there is mandatory training around violence against women and girls for all police officers.”

When pressed specifically on the matter of training with the charities, she said: “It’s a matter for police forces and for the College of Policing to set out the detail of how that training should take place. We want to make sure that it is a requirement and that it would be a requirement alongside anti-racism training for all police officers.”

During the discussion of violence against women and girls, it was unsurprising that the death of Sarah Everard was raised. When asked if she would tell young girls that they could trust the average police officer in the street, the Shadow Home Secretary said: “Police officers work really hard to tackle violence against women and girls and there are some great police officers doing great work, but I do want to increase standards in policing”.

“We have to make sure that where there are abusive police officers, they are rooted out immediately and that means you need stronger vetting, and you have to have new rules around misconduct so that they are automatically suspended when investigations take place.”

One of the most frequent concerns that has come up across Teesside while speaking to the public has been immigration. It was put to Ms Cooper that people in the region do not trust Labour on this front and are turning to Reform UK.

In response, she said: “Labour has made it a manifesto commitment to reduce net migration… Labour is the only party that has a serious policy to increase our border security with a new Border Security Command.” Luke Myer added that there is no candidate standing for Reform UK in the Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland constituency, making it a clear choice between him and Sir Simon Clarke of the Conservative Party.

When Mr. Myer was asked about whether he thought the focus on tackling violence against women and girls had been central enough in Labour’s General Election campaign, he said: “I think it’s been a huge part of our general election campaign, we’re really proud that halving violence against women and girls is right there in the manifesto, it’s a key priority for our crime plans.”

The full list of candidates standing in Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland is listed below:

  • Simon Clarke, The Conservative Party

  • Jemma Joy, Liberal Demoracts

  • Rod Liddle, Social Democratic Party

  • Rowan McLaughlin, Green Party

  • Luke Myer, Labour Party