Refuge responds to the King’s Speech
Refuge took to Westminster today to make our message clear. This government needs to do more to address violence against women and girls (VAWG). This government have promised to be tough on crime, today announcing new Criminal Justice and Sentencing Bills. They’ve said these Bills will empower police forces and the criminal justice system, placing tougher sentencing on offenders. Refuge cautiously welcomes this acknowledgment to hold perpetrators to account, but increasing police powers must be coupled with police reform.
Police perpetrated abuse has dominated the headlines since the heinous murder of Sarah Everard by a serving officer over two years ago but still only 12% of officers and staff at the Met Police, where Sarah’s killer served, are suspended following allegations of VAWG-related misconduct. A new Criminal Justice Bill must focus on rooting out misogynists and criminals from within police forces in order to rebuild women and girls confidence in the police. Any officer or staff member who is accused of violence against women and girls must be suspended immediately whilst the allegation is fully investigated.
This government has promised they will ‘improve the confidence of victims’, to do this they must restore women’s trust in the police and the criminal justice system. They must ensure they are supporting survivors at every step of the process from having confidence to report crimes committed against them to accessing support services and rebuilding their lives.
Earlier this year Refuge welcomed the introduction of the Victims and Prisoners’ Bill, designed to bolster victims’ rights in the criminal justice system and improve access to victim support services. Existing funding gaps mean that more than half of survivors who want to access community-based services are unable to. Without additional funding the essential community-based services required to improve support for survivors of domestic abuse will continue to be inconsistent, patchy and fail to make the difference needed. For the Victims and Prisoners’ Bill to deliver meaningful change for women and girls, we urge the government to provide adequate funding for domestic abuse community-based services.
Over the last year the government have made promises to make VAWG a strategic priority, now is the moment for them to take tangible action to tackle VAWG and to end domestic abuse. To do so the government must commit to delivering a radical and wide-ranging package of reforms. We hope that the government will recognise the urgent need to prioritise action on VAWG to end the endemic misogyny that leads to 1 in 4 women experiencing domestic abuse in their lifetime. This may well be a Parliamentary session cut short by a General Election, the government has repeatedly said that ending violence against women and girls (VAWG) is a priority, now they must prioritise the legislation needed to deliver on these pledges.