Scottish Labour demands action over ‘national emergency’ of violence against women

The Scottish Government has been urged to make misogyny a hate crime in response to the “national emergency” of violence against women.

The Labour justice spokeswoman, Pauline McNeill, issued the plea in the wake of the rape and murder of Sarah Everard, who was killed by a serving police officer.

While Ms Everard was murdered in London, Ms McNeill (pictured) said that thousands of women in Scotland were the victims of violence and abuse each year.

She stated: “It is beyond dispute that violence against women is a national emergency – but action has been woefully lacking.”

Ms McNeill, who recently met the Lord Advocate, Dorothy Bain QC, to discuss issues of violence against women, insisted: “It should not take horrific, high-profile cases to spur the Government into action.

“It’s high time that the SNP wakes up to the endemic nature of misogyny and act now to make it a hate crime.”

A working group set up by the Scottish Government, and led by Helena Kennedy QC, on whether misogyny should be a distinct crime is due to report to ministers next year.

And the Justice Secretary, Keith Brown, said at the weekend that “it may well be that we end up, depending on her recommendations, with a stand alone offence of misogyny”.

Ms McNeill said that was “encouraging” – but she claimed the Government had “failed to act time and time again”.
The killing of Sarah Everard by a serving police officer has raised wider concerns over male violence towards women (CPS/PA Media)

The Labour MSP said: “From criminal justice to social security to planning, there is so much more that could be done here and now to improve women’s lives.

“Every day of delay is another day that women are left behind, without these added protections.

“We know that thousands of women each year are the victims of violence and abuse.”

Labour had pushed for misogyny to be included when Holyrood considered legislation on hate crime, but its attempts were unsuccessful.

In addition to making misogyny a hate crime, the party wants a Victims’ Commissioner to be established and for the controversial not proven verdict in Scots law to be abolished.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Violence against women is abhorrent and totally unacceptable, and our Equally Safe Strategy sets out our ambition to eradicate it in all its forms.

“Our focus is on preventing such abuse and we have committed to invest over £100 million to support frontline services and focus on prevention of violence against women and girls.

“We are absolutely clear that women and girls should not feel unsafe or experience harassment, abuse or violence, which is why we set up the independent Working Group on Misogyny and Criminal Justice in Scotland led by Baroness Helena Kennedy QC.

“The group is gathering oral and written evidence from a number of experts and from a large survey to determine what more we can do to deal with misogynistic conduct, including street harassment.

“As the Cabinet Secretary for Justice made clear at the weekend, this work is progressing well and includes discussion on whether a specific criminal offence of misogyny is needed to change behaviours and help address these concerns. It is also looking at whether to add the characteristic of ‘sex’ to the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act.

“The group will submit its report on its findings and recommendations in February 2022.”

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2021, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Fraser Bremner / Scottish Daily Mail / PA.