Priti Patel Insists “Government Is Listening” As She Reopens Consultation On Violence Against Women
Police have confirmed that a body found in Kent is that of Sarah Everard (Alamy)
The government has announced it is reopening a Call for Evidence on violence against women after thousands shared their experiences of harassment in the wake of Sarah Everard’s death.
Announcing the move, home secretary Priti Patel said the 33-year-old's case had affected so many people because it “reminds women everywhere of the steps we all take on a daily basis, without a second thought, to keep ourselves safe”.
“So many of you have bravely shared your own experiences of harassment, abuse and violence online over recent days, so today I am re-opening our nationwide call for views on tackling violence against women and girls. The government is listening,” she said.
“Everyone should be free to walk our streets without the slightest fear. With Sarah and her family in my thoughts and prayers, I will continue to do all I can in my role as Home Secretary to protect women and girls.”
The original consultation ran for 10 weeks from 10 December 2020 to 19 February 2021 and received over 15,000 responses.
It will now be accepting submissions for an additional two weeks from 12 March to 26 March in “recognition of the widespread sharing of experiences on social media” in recent weeks.
Earlier on Friday, it was announced that human remains discovered in woodland in Ashford, Kent had been formally identified as Everard.
“I can now confirm this has been formally identified as Sarah. A post-mortem examination is now taking place," Assistant Commissioner Nick Ephgrave said.
"Specialist officers are in constant contact with her family and have updated them on this terrible news."
A serving Metropolitan Police officer who was arrested on suspicion of her murder remains in custody, he added.
"I understand that women in London and the wider public, particularly those in the area where Sarah went missing, will be worried and may well be feeling frightened," Assistant Commissioner Ephgrave continued.
"Londoners are likely to continue to see extra officers on the streets in the coming days.
"Please know our officers are committed to keeping you and your loved ones safe. Our dedication to serve the people of London is undiminished."
The news comes as organisers of a vigil in remembrance of Sarah Everard face legal action and fees of up to £30,000 after permission to hold the event was withdrawn.
Legal representatives for organisers of the ‘Reclaim These Streets’ vigil, set to be held in Clapham on Saturday have insisted that the event can be held in compatibility with coronavirus restrictions.
An application has been made to the High Court arguing that attempts by the Metropolitan Police to stop the vigil could contravene the Human Rights Act, as it limits the rights to free expression and assembly.
The case was heard at 3:45pm on Friday, with a judgement is expected later this afternoon.
Lana Adamou, a lawyer at human rights charity Liberty, described the situation as “concerning” and said people’s rights were being “unjustly restricted.
“Protest is the lifeblood of a healthy democracy, and it’s critical that those in power do not try to stop us from standing up for what we believe in,” she said.
“Safe, socially distanced demonstrations are perfectly possible, and it is the duty of the police to facilitate them, not block them.
“The current restrictions should be and can be interpreted compatibly with our rights to free expression and assembly enshrined in the Human Rights Act.”
Adamou continued: “Threatening prohibitively heavy fines, with the risk of criminal conviction if challenged, for arranging this demonstration is the latest example of blunt powers being used heavy-handedly by police, and our rights being unjustly restricted.”
Labour MPs Harriet Harman, Helen Hayes, Florence Eshalomi and Bell Ribeiro-Addy — who constituencies all sit in south London — have also expressed their support for the vigil and have confirmed they plan to attend.
"This is about making sure women's voices are heard," Vauxhall MP Florence Eshalomi told PoliticsHome.
"It would be wrong for women to then be silenced by not having an opportunity to come together show that solidarity with various friends and family."
She continued: "I'm hoping that the police will work with the women who are organising this vigil, work with the local community, work with Lambeth council, work with myself and my other parliamentary colleagues to look at how we can put forward a vigil which respects the current restrictions."
And Bell Ribeiro-Addy echoed her colleague's calls for the event to go ahead.
"The vigil has provided a bit of a sense of hope: women coming together, showing their solidarity, remembering Sarah, and reclaiming the street by showing that they're not afraid," the Streatham MP told PoliticsHome.
She continued: "I'd be extremely disappointed if, given a choice and given the sensitivities around this case in particular, the police didn't support an event which is about women feeling safe.
"Women's voices shouldn't really be silenced in this way, especially considering they offered initial support."
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