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7 Dec, 2017 09:16

Sexists to face tougher sentences under plans to make misogyny a hate crime

Sexists to face tougher sentences under plans to make misogyny a hate crime

Criminals motivated by sexism could face increased sentences as police prepare to review plans to make misogyny a hate crime. It comes as part of efforts to clampdown on sexual harassment.

Proposals to make misogyny the sixth strand of offences categorized as a hate crime are currently being discussed by senior police officers. If agreed, criminals who are found to have acted out of hatred towards women would be handed longer sentences. Under the reforms, sexist behavior or language would be treated as an aggravating factor to other crimes such as assault and harassment.

A pilot scheme has been running in Nottingham since last year, and is expected to report back to police chiefs, who will then consider whether new regulations should apply across the country. As part of the scheme, police revealed that there was a case of misogyny reported every three days during July and August.

"You would take any offence that the person reported and if it reached the evidential standard and had been reported as a hate crime then it would attract an enhanced sentence,” Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton, who leads on hate crime for the National Police Chiefs’ Council, told the Women and Equalities Committee on Wednesday.

"So it's not about a new crime of hate, it's about adding another category to the enhanced process that layers on top of an offence when it occurs,” he explained.

While expressing his support for a review of the categories, Hamilton stressed that other bodies, such as the Criminal Prosecution Service (CPS) and the government, had to play their part too.

"My slight concern would be that the police move on their own. It's whether the criminal justice system from its end would respond to it. So that's a bigger debate than me,” he said.

Hamilton added that he hoped the new legislation would encourage victims to report their abuse. "Hopefully that is an indication to victims that it's more reason to come forward and more reason to believe that the criminal justice system will take them seriously.”

Committee Chair and Conservative MP Maria Miller said: “There has been significant and growing concern over the past few years about routine sexism and sexual harassment that women and girls experience in their daily lives.

“Recent allegations that have emerged across different sectors have amplified this. Last year, the committee published a report which uncovered a disturbing level of sexual harassment and sexual violence against girls in schools. We are now interested in hearing about women’s experiences in other environments.”

“Once we have a better picture of the problem, we will consider further work on this in the new year,” Miller added.

80,393 hate crimes were recorded in 2016-17, up from 62,518 the previous year, which was the highest annual rise since the Home Office began recording in 2011-12.

The UK has the highest record of violent sex crimes in the EU – 64,500 of the 215,000 sex crimes recorded in the EU occurred in England and Wales.