The sentencing of Wayne Couzens, who abducted, raped, and murdered 33-year-old Sarah Everard in March when he was a serving police officer, has reignited calls to add women into the protective categories listed in the hate crime law in England and Wales.
Asked if misogyny should be a hate crime, the prime minister told “BBC Breakfast” he’s focusing on making sure the criminal justice system prosecutes people for existing crimes.
“To be perfectly frank, if you simply widen the scope of what you ask the police to do, you’ll just increase the problem,” Johnson said. “What you need to do is get the police to focus on the very real feeling of injustice and betrayal that many people feel.”
The prime minister said what needs to be focused on is that the “abundant” statutes on domestic violence, rape, and harassment have not been properly enforced.
“That is what the police need to be doing, and they need to be taking women’s complaints seriously, and we need to be contracting that period between a woman reporting her complaint and the disposal in court because it’s taking far too long,” Johnson added.
Commenting on the dwindling number of successful rape convictions, Johnson said there are “immense complications with evidence from mobile phones” with defendants “too often” being able to produce “spurious or otherwise” reasons why they might have thought consent was given.
“The way the police in the whole criminal justice system handles crimes of violence against women, it’s just not working, and there are an awful lot of things that you need to do. And so I think that the anger over Sarah Everard’s murder is a symptom of that wider frustration that people feel,” he added.
Johnson said he believes the best way to induce a “change in culture” is to have more female officers, adding that “it’s a good thing” that 40 percent of the Metropolitan Police force is female.
There are currently five hate crime categories—race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, and transgender identity—in England and Wales, but no separate hate crime offences. Any suspect of a crime motivated by or demonstrating hostility based on these categories can be prosecuted as a hate crime, for which the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) can request an increased sentence.
According to the CPS, more than half of its requests led to offenders having their sentence increased last year.
Nottinghamshire Police has been recording misogynist incidents against women since 2016, with a handful of forces following suit.
The Law Commission, the statutory independent body that reviews laws in England and Wales and advises the government on law reform, announced a review of the hate crime laws.
In its interim proposals, published in September last year, the commission recommended the government to add “sex or gender” to the protected characteristics, as well as to consult on adding “a range of other characteristics, notably ‘age.'”
The commission ran a consultation on its recommendations until December 2020, and its final recommendations are due to be published this autumn.
On March 17, in the wake of Everard’s murder on March 3, Home Office minister Baroness Williams argued against a Labour amendment to the government’s Domestic Abuse Bill to mandate the recording of sex- or gender-motivated crimes. Williams instead announced the government would ask police forces to record, on an experimental basis, crimes that are perceived by the victims to have been motivated by hostility based on their sex.