“Sarah Everard and Claudia Lawrence were both from York. And right now women are feeling unsafe.”
With these words, York Central MP Rachael Maskell challenged the Prime Minister to put women in charge of changing this situation.
At Prime Minister’s Questions today, the Labour MP told Boris Johnson: “The very people who should be protecting us are telling us to engage with potential perpetrators, to flag down a bus or know the laws of arrest better.
“Confidence in the police has taken its toll.”
She said women were determined to change things, asking: “What steps will the Prime Minister take to ensure that women with lived experience lead this work and by when?”
Mr Johnson said he believed women could feel confidence in the police, and that the government was investing in street lights and CCTV.
But the “systemic problems in the criminal justice system” needed to be dealt with “to ensure that men – and I am afraid it is nearly always men – get prosecuted for rape and for crimes of serious sexual domestic violence in the way they should”.
Afterwards, Ms Maskell said: “I was very disappointed with the response. I hoped the Prime Minister would listen and accept that women need to play a leading role in determining their safety.
“Instead he prescribed a solution of more street lighting and CCTV.”
She added: “He should be talking with women’s groups and experts who understand the issues.
“It is not enough to talk about increasing sentencing for people convicted of violence and rape when last year rape charges rose by almost five per cent and yet there were 330 fewer convictions than the previous year.”
The full exchange
Rachael Maskell asked the Prime Minister:
David Amess and James Brokenshire were both tragically taken in different ways. Both served this place with integrity and served their constituents well.
As we offer our heartfelt love and prayers to their families, their families have offered us a path to a new kind of politics built on kindness and love.
Sarah Everard and Claudia Lawrence were both from York. And right now women are feeling unsafe; many women are unsafe.
And the very people who should be protecting us are telling us to engage with potential perpetrators, to flag down a bus or know the laws of arrest better.
Confidence in the police has taken its toll.
But as women, we are confident and determined to change this – so every girl and every woman can live at home without fear, can go to work or school without harassment, can go online without objectification and can walk our streets safely again.
What steps will the Prime Minister take to ensure that women with lived experience lead this work, and by when?
Boris Johnson replied:
I thank her very much for her question and she raises a most important issue, one of the most important that this country faces. And I want all people in this country, particularly women, to feel confidence in our police force and I believe that they can and that they should.
What we are doing now to make sure that women, in particular, feel safe at night is we’re investing in safer streets, in better street lighting, in more CCTV.
But what we also have to do, as I think the whole house understands, is ensure we deal with the systemic problems in the criminal justice system to ensure that men – and I am afraid it is almost always men – get prosecuted for rape and for crimes of serious sexual and domestic violence in the way they should – and that we secure the convictions that we should.
And when we secure those convictions those individuals get the tough sentencing that they deserve and that’s what this side of the house believes in.