Merseyside’s Police Commissioner has joined the calls for a new statutory duty requiring agencies to prevent violence against women and girls as the Government launches its “long overdue” strategy.
Emily Spurrell said, “Radical action to protect women and girls from violence is sadly long overdue from this Government. Under their watch, the number of people prosecuted and convicted for rape has fallen to an all-time low and there is an epidemic of violence against women and girls (VAWG) in our society.
“Calls for urgent, drastic change have come from all quarters.
“It is taken them far too long to act and tragically that means the safety of even more women has been jeopardised. We have seen the heart-breaking results of that apathy and there are families that are grieving because of it.
“I welcome the news that this strategy outlines a whole-system approach and that a single lead police officer with overall responsibility for VAWG will now be appointed at the NPCC. Plans to introduce a 24-hour rape and sexual assault helpline, criminalise ‘virginity testing’, and the launch of a communications campaign focused on creating behaviour change are all positive steps in the right direction.
“I am pleased to see the Government is reviewing existing laws in regards to street harassment and I would urge them to strengthen the powers the police have by introducing a new law. This is something I have championed for several years and, if it comes to fruition, credit must go to the campaigners who have worked so hard to lobby for this, including groups, such as Plan UK and Our Streets Now. Alongside the focus on education to ensure young people learn about healthy relationships and consent, this is a vital step if we are to call out and challenge the underlying issues that can lead to more serious incidents taking place.
“If we are to achieve radical change, this strategy must be backed up by a robust, long-term funding package. It is not sufficient to release one-off funding pots when support services hit crisis-point. We need fundamental system-wide change right from the top to drive a bold shift in thinking, backed up by sustained, appropriate funding at a national level and a new statutory framework if anything is to change.
“I echo the calls from my Police and Crime Commissioner colleagues for a new statutory duty requiring key agencies to prevent harms caused by VAWG. Adding VAWG to the Strategic Policing Requirement would be evidence that this Government finally recognises the threat these crimes pose to our society.
“Currently too many victims still feel let down and frustrated by the system. We must do everything we can to build trust and confidence and encourage more victims to support a prosecution, to ensure more perpetrators face justice.
“I already fund a number of fantastic specialist support services, including RASA and RASASC, Savera UK and Catch22, which work to support women and girls who have been affected by violence here in Merseyside, but these organisations are still desperately stretched. To increase support, the Government needs to recognise the demands these organisations face and fund them appropriately. Words of support are not enough.
“I will be engaging with the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice to hold them to account on the promises they have made today.
“I would urge anyone affected by these issues to please visit www.victimcaremerseyside.org where you can find information, advice and a whole host of organisations who are on hand to help.
“Please don’t suffer in silence.”