Home / Insights / Blog / Mixed Response to Treating Misogyny as a Hate Crime

Mixed Response to Treating Misogyny as a Hate Crime

Mixed Response to Treating Misogyny as a Hate Crime

Some police officers in Nottingham have dismissed a policy of treating misogyny as a hate crime as a “waste of time” following a two-year local pilot scheme.

In May 2016, Nottinghamshire Police became the first UK force to record public harassment of women, such as groping or taking unwanted photographs, as well as more serious offences such as assault, as a misogyny hate crime.

Officers said it “incorporated some behaviours that were fairly trivial, did not warrant a police response and used up resources without being backed by a mandate from the public,” according to a report by Prof Louise Mullany, of the University of Nottingham, and Dr Loretta Trickett, of Nottingham Trent University’s Law School.

A spokeswoman for Nottinghamshire Police said the policy sought to encourage the public to report misogynistic behaviour rather than push for convictions.

“We are, of course, disappointed to read that some officers did not find the training beneficial . . . We provided a comprehensive training package and received positive feedback at the time,” the spokeswoman said.

Dr Loretta Trickett said: “Much of this behaviour on this spectrum is criminal behaviour, there’s no doubt about that. People could have gone to the police about it before . . . But because of the culture we have it’s just acceptable to intimidate women on the street, to go up to a woman and touch her backside, or to comment on her body and put her in fear of an assault.”

Professor Louise Mullany said: “There’s a spectrum of crime here, and it goes up to rape and sexual assault, and we were really shocked at how high the figures were in terms of people reporting the more serious end of crime, and that becoming part of a regular occurrence.”

Public support the policy despite attempt at trivialisation

Despite police in Nottingham claiming the policy had no popular mandate, and an initial trivialisation in the media as “arrests for wolf-whistling,” the general public in Nottingham were found to be broadly in favour of the policy, with women who had reported incidents mostly positive. Other police forces have introduced similar schemes, while the civil society alliance Citizens UK, along with the Fawcett Society and senior Jewish and Muslim religious figures, have co-signed a letter urging the National Police Chiefs Council to act on a national roll-out.

Officers engaged in similar projects elsewhere in the country say that the policy allows the charting of the scale of the problem for the first time. Critics contend that pursuing such crimes diverts resources from more serious offences but those officers working in pilot areas emphasise the operational importance of information gathering, especially where offending escalates.

Supt Mark Khan, the lead on hate crime for North Yorkshire Police, which has introduced a scheme recording misogynist incidents, said: “It’s about catching behaviour at an early stage. Today’s flasher is tomorrow’s rapist.”

Call for Scottish hate crime laws to be consolidated

Meanwhile, in Scotland, the Holyrood government is considering proposals to include gender and age-related abuse as a hate crime in law.

A report by Lord Bracadale argues that all Scottish hate crime laws should be consolidated into a single piece of legislation. The report found no need to create new laws to deal with hate crime online and said no replacement was required for section 1 of the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012.

Gillian Mawdsley, of the Law Society of Scotland, said: “We support Lord Bracadale’s recommendations for a baseline offence and statutory aggravations. In our consultation response we called for all Scottish hate crime legislation to be consolidated and are pleased that this has been supported in the report.”

However, women’s groups have branded the proposals “disappointing” and called for a standalone hate crime of misogyny to battle the rising tide of sexual harassment and abuse, particularly online.

Criminal Defence

We have one of the leading teams of criminal specialists in West London and the South East. If you are facing a serious criminal charge, you can contact a member of the IBB’s Criminal Defence team, call us on 0330 999 4999 for immediate emergency representation. Alternatively please email criminaldefence@ibblaw.co.uk.