Wednesday, January 19, 2022
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HomeNewsCrimeHarriet Harman calls for tougher action on kerb crawlers

Harriet Harman calls for tougher action on kerb crawlers

Harriet Harman has called for kerb calling school girls to be made a legal offence, as parliament debated the controversial police and crime bill this week.

Although kerb crawling while soliciting paid-for sex is illegal, it is not an offence to kerb crawl young girls on their way to and from school.

Harassment is also only an offence against someone known to the perpetrator – and not a stranger – another amendment the Camberwell and Peckham MP hopes will crack down on misogyny and abuse.

She is also lobbying to stop a rape victim’s sexual history being examined in court; a change which could encourage more women to report rape to the police.

The new law, which passed its second reading in parliament on Tuesday, could introduce sweeping changes to policing and prosecutions.

Some changes have widespread backing, including banning sex between sports coaches and sixteen-year-old mentees, and introducing life sentences for some drivers who kill. It will also end automatic early releases for violent offenders. But, most controversially, the legislation imposes more restrictions on protests.

On Monday, after a meeting of the Criminal Justice Taskforce, the government also announced that along with more CCTV rollouts it will trial plain clothes police officers patrolling clubs and bars in an effort to create more safe spaces for women.

The announcement came after sustained scrutiny of the police investigation into Sarah Everard’s disappearance, the Met’s response to a vigil held in her memory over the weekend, and an outpouring of personal stories from women who say not enough is being done to stop street harrassment and attacks.

Met Commissioner Cressida Dick has so far refused to buckle under pressure; ignoring calls for her resignation after officers were pictured pinning down women and dragging them away from the memorial to the 33-year-old in Clapham Common.

The vigil had been first been planned by campaigners from Reclaim These Streets, who had been disappointed by the Met’s refusal to work with them to hold the event. The organisers have since gone on record saying they believe Ms Dick’s resignation would do nothing for their cause – and distract from the wider issues.

The Commissioner has also publicly supported the need for a “cold light of day, sober, review”. After the vigil had been closed down, Assistant Commissioner Helen Ball said hundreds had laid tributes in a “safe and lawful way” but claimed that around 6pm the socially-distanced event became too crowded and after asking people to disperse a “small minority” began “chanting at officers, pushing and throwing items”.

In Southwark, MP Helen Hayes said “heavy handed policing of a peaceful vigil is unacceptable” while London Mayor Sadiq Khan said from what he had seen of events unfolding “the response was at times neither appropriate nor proportionate”, and Southwark Council leader Kieron Williams joined them in calling for an independent investigation.

The Met has been under fire since it emerged the man accused of abducting and murdering the 33-year-old marketing executive is a serving police officer – 48-year-old Wayne Couzens, due to stand trial at the Old Bailey in October.

Since his arrest and charge, there have been numerous referrals to the police regulator, one of which concerns an accusation that he had been reported to police three days before Sarah’s disappearance for exposing himself in a south London takeaway.  Another incident involves claims a police officer tasked with guarding a cordon at a crime scene during the investigation had shared an ‘inappropriate graphic’. A probe is also being held into how Couzens sustained head injuries requiring hospitalisation, twice, while in custody.

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