Police powers and women’s rights to justice

Essex Tory MPs are enthusiastic about the Police and Crime Bill 2021 currently being debated in Parliament – but it will reduce citizens’ rights to peacefully demonstrate. The shape of things to come is revealed by the Met Police’s violent treatment of women at the London vigil on 13 March, gathered to express their sadness at Sarah Everard’s death and societal violence against women.
There seems to be contempt by the Government towards certain sections of the population: women, BAME protesters, and those who want action on the climate emergency.
Police are already selectively using legislation to target groups who are discriminated against (eg BAME and women), while turning a blind eye to violent EDL, statue-supporters, and football violence. So on 13 March women were restrained by police, and dragged along the ground at the vigil; meanwhile evidence shows that BAME people are disproportionately fined for Covid regulatory breaches, while others are free to do as they wish (eg Dominic Cummings).
Women have suffered from years of violence in their homes and on the streets. The Tory Government has underfunded refuges, the justice system, closed courts, outsourced forensics to inefficient private organisations, and underfunded the CPS so that it operates as a bookmaker betting on winning cases instead of prioritising justice. Prisons and forensic services are run privately (and often badly), profiting from misery. Currently, criminals get away with offences against women, due to cuts to public services. There are long waiting times for courts (pre-pandemic, worse now) and underfunding of forensic evidence. The denial of justice for women is appalling.
We urgently need investment in public services, which should be run not for profit, but for social benefit. The current situation is starting to resemble state-sanctioned violence against women. I always thought that Margaret Atwood’s vision of Gilead was a far-fetched dystopian future, but currently the UK is a real showcase of gender oppression without remedy. The Government’s poor handling of the criminal justice system has to change. There must be justice for women – and also for minorities, and the climate. Handing enhanced powers to police to silence protesters is an authoritarian move that further denies justice and citizens’ rights.

Samantha Naik

21.03.2021