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Tory MPs Urge Priti Patel To Ensure “Change Actually Comes” For Women With Sarah Everard Inquiry

4 min read

Priti Patel’s announcement of a full inquiry into issues raised around policing following Sarah Everard’s murder has been welcomed by Tory members, but MPs insist “this can't just be another review”.

Speaking after the Home Secretary’s speech to the party’s conference in Manchester, Burnley MP Anthony Higginbotham said he wants to see that “change actually comes” for those impacted by violence towards women and girls.

Higginbotham told PoliticsHome what he wanted to hear from the inquiry, set up to investigate the issues raised by the conviction of police office Wayne Couzens for Everrad’s murder, “is the voice of women loud and clear”.

He said it was especially important that "the human aspect" was the focus of the inquiry.

"We want to make sure in any inquiry that the human side of this comes out, this can't just be another review," he explained. 

“This is about making sure that for people it impacts every day change actually comes.”

Sara Britcliffe, the MP for Hyndburn, agreed. “We actually need to see what will happen with this review and how it will make a difference to women and girls' lives – and that's what matters,” she said. 

Patel said she shares the public’s concern at the appalling circumstances of the case, and said she is determined to deliver improvements within policing and across the criminal justice system.

“Recent tragic events have exposed unimaginable failures in policing,” she told a the packed-out conference auditorium. 

“It is abhorrent that a serving police officer was able to abuse his position of power, authority and trust to commit such a horrific crime. 

“The public have a right to know what failures enabled his continued employment as a police officer and an inquiry will give the independent oversight needed to ensure something like this can never happen again.” 

The inquiry will be formed of two part; firstly it will examine Couzens’ previous behaviour and any opportunities which were missed before his conviction, and secondly it will look at the issues raised by the first part – including wider policing issues such as vetting practices, professional standards and discipline, and workplace behaviour.

One activist who watched the speech was pleased to hear there would be an inquiry. "There needs to be answers to how this guy was still a police officer," they said. 

“With everything else we’re hearing about the police, it needs to be done.”

Another attendee said believed it was good that the inquiry would be separate from the Met’s own review, after criticism this would lead to the police marking their own homework.

Last week the Independent Office for Police Conduct’ announced it was investigating Couzens, and the handling of allegations of indecent exposure by Kent Police in 2015 and the Met just days before he abducted and killed Everard in March of this year.

Scrutiny of the government's approach to tackling crime against women has been a focus point at this week's Conservative Party Conference, but Boris Johnson has said he does not support making misogyny a hate crime.

He said there is "abundant" existing legislation to tackle violence against women. "What you need to do is get the police to focus on the very real crimes, the very real feeling of injustice and betrayal that many people feel,” he told BBC Breakfast.

Labour’s shadow domestic violence minister Jess Phillips, has criticised Johnson's comments. 

"It is a disgrace that the prime minister has suggested to the millions of women and girls experiencing misogynistic violence and harassment, that misogyny is not a ‘real crime’,” she said. 

Liberal Democrat equalities spokesperson Wera Hobhouse said ruling out making misogyny a hate crime shows how “out of touch and tone deaf” Johnson is, saying it would be a “crucial step at the heart of reforming our criminal justice system”.

But Higginbotham believed it was a “difficult issue” and the government needed to be careful about how things are defined in law.

“What we should do is whatever we need to do to make sure women and girls as they are walking the streets or going around a bar, feel safe, and don't feel like they're subject to abuse and and leery men,” the MP added.

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