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‘We need action’: Labour criticises government’s strategy for tackling violence against women

Rebecca Speare-Cole
·4-min read
Hundreds of people gathered at a peaceful vigil for Sarah Everard on Clapham Common in South London on the 13th of March 2021, London, United Kingdom. Sarah Everard went missing on 3 March after setting off at 9pm from a friends house to make her two and a half mile journey home. Candles and flowers for Sarah Everard. The vigil was also a call to end violence against girls and women perpetrated by men. The vigil was not sanctioned by police because of Covid restrictions and the police decided to arrest a number of people in an attempt to end the peaceful and highly emotional vigil. The event took place at the band stand on the common and speeches were held from the stand till police confiscated the sound equipment.(photo by Kristian Buus/In Pictures via Getty Images)
Hundreds of people gathered at a vigil for Sarah Everard on Clapham Common on Saturday. (Getty Images)

Labour has criticised the government’s strategies for tackling violence against women as the fallout following Sarah Everard’s death continues.

Shadow domestic violence minister Jess Phillips told Sky News on Sunday that the government needs to turn its rhetoric into action.

Everard's death prompted widespread outrage and debate about the harassment and violence women face in the UK.

Police have been criticised after officers scuffled with members of the crowd who were paying tribute to the 33-year-old on Clapham Common in south London on Saturday evening.

Read: Hundreds gather in south London to pay tribute to Sarah Everard despite vigil being cancelled

Home secretary Priti Patel has called on the Met Police for a "full report" into its officers' actions.

She also revealed that almost 20,000 people had responded in 24 hours to a consultation on how the government could tackle the problems.

But Phillips said the survey is “absolutely not enough”.

Jess Phillips talks about the government's strategy. (Sky News)
Labour's Jess Phillips has criticised the government’s strategies for tackling violence against women. (Sky News)

She said: “The issue of street harassment, the issue of sexual violence, the issue of domestic violence and all violence against women and girls, we know what the problems are. The home secretary has known for many years, the minister has known for many years."

“We don’t need a survey. We can take action," she added.

Addressing the government's proposed Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, Phillips said Labour would again ask ministers on Monday to consider treating misogyny as a hate crime, criminalising street harassment and increasing rape tariffs.

She said: "I'm afraid to say the bill that is before us on Monday, in the explanatory notes which I read on Monday, there is more mention of statues than there is of women. Ten years for doing something to a statue, but what about women?"

Watch: Met Police chief urged to resign after 'disgraceful' vigil clash

She said: “We need to come together to take action. We don’t just need to be angry. We need action and the minister should be able to layout to us what they’re going to do.”

Phillips also criticised the government’s lack of strategy for dealing with perpetrators, saying: “The reality is the government doesn’t currently have a strategy for perpetrators for domestic abuse, which we’ve asked for repeatedly. Let’s hope this case has changed their minds.”

The Labour MP was also hesitant to call this moment a "turning point" like the government has, saying that Downing Street has taken little action on the matter since the start of the 'Me Too' movement in late 2017.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - 2021/03/13: Crowd of Londoners during the vigil for Sarah Everard being held at Clapham Common.
33 year old Sarah Everard was walking to her home in Brixton when she was kidnaped and murdered by a London Metropolitan Police officer. (Photo by Phil Lewis/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Crowds gathered for Saturday's vigil for Sarah Everard at Clapham Common in south London. (Getty Images)

She said that since 'Me Too' began, every recommendation on legislation has been rejected by the government.

"When the minister says this is a turning point, when Priti Patel says this is a turning point, when Boris Johnson says this is a turning point – they have an enormous majority in the House of Commons – they can turn their rhetoric into action," Phillips said.

"I don’t want platitudes, I don’t want nice words, I don’t want clapping. I want action to change this."

It comes as Met Police commissioner Cressida Dick faced calls to resign after the scenes on Clapham Common.

Scuffles broke out at the front of a crowd of hundreds as police surrounded a bandstand covered in floral tributes to Everard.

Read more:
‘We are tired’: MP makes powerful speech about the toll of male violence on women
Police confirm body found in Kent woodland is Sarah Everard

At one stage, male officers could be seen taking hold of several women before leading them away in handcuffs, to shouts and screams from onlookers.

In response, the crowd chanted “shame on you”, while during another confrontation a woman could be heard telling officers “you’re supposed to protect us”.

Everard vanished while walking from a friend’s house in Clapham to her home in Brixton on 3 March.

Just over a week later, police confirmed Met Police officer Wayne Couzens, 48, has been charged with her kidnap and murder, after her remains were found in woodland in Kent.

Watch: Sarah Everard's body found in large bag, court hears