Policing Minister Says 10-Year Jail Term For Defacing Statues Reflects Their “Emotional Value”
Policing minister Kit Malthouse has defended plans to increase the maximum sentence for defacing a statue (Alamy)
The policing minister Kit Malthouse has defended plans to increase the maximum sentence for defacing a statue to 10 years, saying the current legislation ignores their “emotional or symbolic value”.
The government is facing accusations from the opposition that the new police, crime, sentencing and courts bill offers more protections for monuments than rape victims.
Labour confirmed they plan to vote against the measures in the Commons this week following the distressing scenes between police and those attending the vigil for Sarah Everard on Saturday.
But Malthouse said the bill will ensure people "stand shoulder to shoulder on violence across the board", and told Sky News he was "disappointed and a bit confused" by Labour's decision.
He said it offers "huge protections for the public, not least against serious sexual offenders”, and rejected the attacks on the decision to increase penalties for defacing statues.
Malthouse noted that "criminal damage already carries a sentence of 10 years", although this was "limited" according to value.
"That ignores the emotional or symbolic value of war memorials," he added. "So we are just removing that anomaly."
Malthouse continued: "It seems unusual they would pick that particular issue to focus on when there is so much more in the bill.
"We are using this bill to put everyone shoulder to shoulder on violence across the board, not just against women and girls, important though that is."
Last night Conservative party chairman Amanda Milling also defended the bill, highlighting its scope.
“Labour are voting against tougher sentences for child murderers, sex offenders, killer drivers and measures that protect the vulnerable,” she said.But the shadow domestic violence minister Jess Phillips hit back: “This is a disgusting and untrue statement.
“The Conservative government’s bill does absolutely nothing currently to increase sentences for rapists, stalkers, or those who batter, control and abuse women.
“It does nothing about street harassment and assaults.”
Malthouse also defended the Met police chief Dame Cressida Dick after calls on her to resign over the way the Sarah Everard vigil was handled after pictures of officers manhandling women caused outrage.
"Cressida Dick is an officer of superlative achievement in her life and she has been close to some incredibly successful investigations," he told BBC Breakfast.
"I know that she is very dedicated and committed to this issue of dealing with violence against women and girls in as assertive a way as we possibly can."
Malthouse said he found policing of the vigil "very distressing and the pictures were obviously alarming”, but he did not back calls for the Met commissioner to resign.
"I do recognise that police are in an incredibly difficult position," he told Sky News.
Dick defended herself in comments yesterday, and backed her officers in the way they responded to the "really big crowd".
"They have to make these really difficult calls and I don't think anybody should be sitting back in an armchair and saying 'well that was done badly' or 'I would have done it differently' without actually understanding what was going through their minds," she said.
But the police chief has been summoned to a meeting at Downing Street today with Boris Johnson, who is chairing the Crime And Justice Taskforce to discuss Violence against Women and Girls.
The Prime Minister said he was "deeply concerned" by the scenes on Clapham Common on Saturday night, adding: "The death of Sarah Everard must unite us in determination to drive out violence against women and girls and make every part of the criminal justice system work to protect and defend them.”
There are currently two investigation into the Met, one by the force itself, and another by the police watchdog the HMIC, launched by home secretary Priti Patel who said after speaking to Dick there were still questions that needed answering.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who shares oversight for the capital’s police with Patel, described officers’ actions as "unacceptable", and said he too was "not satisfied" with the explanation provided by the commissioner and the deputy commissioner when he spoke to them.
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