Even as a “flagship” Bill the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill is a big Bill, proposing sweeping new powers and changes to the criminal justice system. Some like the Police Charter and stronger sentences for terrorists deserve support. There are also things that I and others have campaigned on for a long time like increased sentences for causing death by dangerous driving, and measures to “protect the protectors”. We could have added things like action to safeguard shopworkers and against retail theft.
But there were also controversial measures on things like statues seemingly designed to provoke a new round of culture wars and divide the country as elections approach. As it stood the Bill could mean someone could get locked up longer for damaging a statue than for attacking a woman.
And then came the utterly tragic death of Sarah Everard, instigating renewed demands for action to tackle violence against women, and the picture changed completely. Controversial measures to restrict protest and the lack of anything substantial in the Bill on women’s safety were brought into sharper focus by images of women being arrested at a Clapham Common vigil.
The Government got its bill at Second Reading – with a majority of eighty why wouldn’t it? – but has paused the next stages under pressure to fill the void where action against violence against women should have been. I hope the Government now accepts our offer to work across parties and to work across the community, particularly with women, to come forward with a Bill which we can all get behind.