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Sexism Could be Treated as a Hate Crime

Sexism Could be Treated as a Hate Crime

Police chiefs are considering plans whereby sexist language and behaviour would be treated as an aggravating factor in crimes such as harassment and assault. The proposal would mean longer sentences for perpetrators who are found to have acted out of hatred for women.

Officers contend that a new hate crime category would give women the confidence to report matters such as workplace harassment even if they weren’t certain that a crime has been committed.

A hate crime is a crime that the victim or any other person perceives to be motivated by hostility or prejudice towards any aspect of a person’s identity.

At the moment, crimes where an individual has been targeted on the grounds of characteristics such as religion faith and belief, ethnicity, disability, gender identity, and sexual orientation, can be made aggravated offences and the perpetrators given longer sentences. Gender is not currently one of these categories.

East Midlands pilot results in tougher penalties

A pilot scheme led by Nottinghamshire Police last year saw sexist incidents including street harassment, verbal abuse and taking photos without consent recorded as hate crimes, resulting in longer penalties for offenders.

Police in the East Midlands region said cases of misogyny were reported every three days in July and August 2017 under the new trialled rules.

A number of other police forces are understood to be monitoring the trial with a view to introducing similar schemes if it is successful.

Courts and CPS must be on board, says police chief

Mark Hamilton, who leads on hate crime for the National Police Chiefs’ Council, told the women and equalities committee that police were “going to take this forward” although he said other agencies, such as the Crown Prosecution Service, courts and Government would also have to implement the change.

Mr Hamilton told the committee:

“You would take any offence that the person reported and if it reached the evidential standard and had been reported as a hate crime then it would attract an enhanced sentence . . . So it’s not about a new crime of hate, it’s about adding another category to the enhanced process that layers on top of an offence when it occurs.”

He added: “Even if a crime hasn’t been committed, the debate now is . . . should we be taking action of some variety to address the behaviour before it escalates into a crime?”

Mr Hamilton also said it is still to be decided whether either “gender-based” or “single gender female” should become a category of hate crime, indicating that crimes against men could also be included.

Growing concern about routine sexism in women’s daily lives

Last year, reports of hate crime in England and Wales increased from 62,518 to 80,393, the biggest rise since the Home Office began recording in 2011-12.

Maria Miller, chair of the women and equalities committee, said:

“There has been significant and growing concern over the past few years about routine sexism and sexual harassment that women and girls experience in their daily lives . . . Recent allegations that have emerged across different sectors have amplified this.”

She added: “Once we have a better picture of the problem, we will consider further work on this in the new year.”

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