Scottish Labour has issued a fresh call to “make the fight against misogyny a priority” by recording it as a hate crime, in light of the Sarah Everard case that saw a Met Police officer given a whole-life sentence last week.
“It is beyond dispute that violence against women is a national emergency – but action has been woefully lacking,” Scottish Labour’s justice spokesperson Pauline McNeill said.
New SNP Justice Secretary Keith Brown said earlier this week that recording misogyny as a hate crime would be an a “very important signal that these behaviours are not acceptable in society from men”.
But the Scottish government, while recognising the significance of such a move, has given no guarantees that it will make the change, and made clear that it would not be considered until next year.
When Scottish Labour previously called for misogyny to be included in hate crime legislation, the SNP refused to back it when the bill was passing through the Scottish parliament.
McNeill added: “It is encouraging to hear the Justice Secretary talk the talk on misogynistic hate crime, but his government has failed to act time and time again.
“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. It should not take horrific, high-profile cases to spur the government into action. It’s high time that the SNP wakes up to endemic nature of misogyny and act now to make it a hate crime.”
The demand to make misogyny a hate crime, championed by Labour backbench MP Stella Creasy in Westminster, was rejected today by Boris Johnson, who said the priority should be to “enforce the existing laws”.
“To be perfectly frank, if you simply widen the scope of what you ask the police to do, you’ll just increase the problem,” the Prime Minister said. “What you need to do is get police to focus on the very real crimes.”
Nottinghamshire Police was the first force in the UK to record public harassment and assault of women as misogyny hate crimes. Metropolitan Police commissioner Cressida Dick has opposed recording incidents of misogyny.
Scottish Labour has reiterated demands from its women’s manifesto 2021, including abolition of the ‘not proven’ verdict in Scotland and a move to a two-verdict system across all criminal trials.
‘Not proven’ is a verdict of acquittal that is used more commonly in rape trials than for other crimes. Nicola Sturgeon said earlier this year that this is “something to look at” and has recently confirmed plans to consult on scrapping it.
Scottish Labour has also advocated fair funding for critical women’s services, ring-fenced grants for victims of domestic abuse and ensuring that a “gender approach” is taken in community planning.