Philip Allott will avoid directly facing public over Sarah Everard remarks as crunch meeting moved online

Under-fire police commissioner Philip Allott will avoid having to directly face the public next week over his much-condemned comments about the murder of Sarah Everard after a crunch meeting about his future was moved online.

Philip Allott will take part in a virtual meeting next week to discuss his comments about Sarah Everard.

The Conservative politician has faced nationwide condemnation after a BBC Radio York interview last week where he claimed women should be “streetwise” about when they can be arrested and added that Ms Everard, who was originally from York, shouldn’t have “submitted” to arrest by killer police officer Wayne Couzens.

Hundreds of complaints have been submitted to Mr Allott’s office, while a petition calling for his resignation from his £74,400-per-year post has been signed by almost 9,000 people.

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Next Thursday’s meeting of the North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Panel, which is chaired by Carl Les, the Conservative leader of North Yorkshire County Council, had been due to take place in person but the meeting has now been changed to a virtual hearing.

The agenda includes 30 minutes for public questions, before members of the panel - which is made up of cross-party local councillors - have their say on the controversy.

A statement issued by the panel said an in-person meeting would have required a “strict limitation” on numbers due to Covid precautions.

“Following the high level of interest expressed to the panel by members of the public and reporters from the press wishing to attend, the decision has been made to hold this meeting online and for it to be live broadcasted and recorded,” a statement issued on behalf of the panel said.

“This measure is in place to ensure full transparency of proceedings to the wider public, without having to restrict numbers present during the pandemic.”

The panel has no powers to sanction Mr Allott but may publish recommendations or a report as part of an “informal resolution” to the complaints.

A report going to the meeting said: “It may be helpful for members to note that individuals have objected to the nature of the apology that has already been provided and amplified by the Commissioner on the basis that they feel it does not fully acknowledge that the sentiments expressed in the radio interview were wrong. Furthermore, they feel there is still insufficient demonstration or understanding of inherent issues and difficulties presented to women in that context.”

After his comments began to be criticised last Friday, Mr Allott initially tweeted a defence of his remarks, saying: “Nobody is blaming the victim what I am saying is that we need to inform women far better of their rights, something I intend to action here in North Yorkshire ASAP.”

He subsequently deleted the message and issued an apology for his “insensitive” remarks, followed by a more detailed apology statement on his website.

An open letter sent to the panel in advance of the meeting by Mr Allott goes further with his apology and also reveals more than 800 complaints have been received by his office, while a further 90 complaints have gone to the Police and Crime Panel.

In the letter, Mr Allott states: “On 1 October 2021 I made remarks in a BBC Radio York interview that were wrong, entirely misconceived and grossly insensitive.

“The subject matter of the interview was the appalling murder of Sarah Everard, the overall issue of trust in the police service and that of male violence against women and girls.

“I gave an answer to a question raised with me about how women and girls might better protect themselves from the risk of such violence. The answer I gave was wrong. It did not and does not represent my view, perspective or the actions I have taken or supported since my election in May 2021.

“With hindsight I should have queried the fundamental basis of the question – it is not for women or girls to be expressly or impliedly obliged to protect themselves. It is for men not to harass, intimidate, assault and murder women.

“Whilst I have fully withdrawn my remarks, I cannot etch these from the record. I can only ask for recognition of how sorry I am to have expressed a view which is so fundamentally wrong and which is rightly considered repugnant to so many – including but not limited to members of the public who have taken the time to write to my Office or to this Panel. It is right that I repeat my apology again for Members and for the public.”

The letter adds: “The volume, tone and content of the public’s concern arising from my answer, is plain. It speaks volumes about the dreadful extent of my error and the importance to society of properly addressing of the issue of male violence against women and girls.”

Mr Allott goes on: “I also hope that my actions in protecting women and girls from violence since being elected to the role of Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire, speak louder than any words. This includes approving a £1,381,865 in the Early Action Together Programme which will embed primary prevention and early intervention to identify crime perpetrators who at risk of committing more serious crimes such as violence and murder.”

He adds: “As I made clear in my published apology, I know that having fallen so fundamentally into error, it is incumbent upon me to recognise that after only five months into the job I have an immense amount to learn. I have committed to a programme of learning and development in relation to male violence against women and girls and to the needs and perspectives of all victims of crime. It is right that I do so at my own expense and that I also extend the learning opportunities to others who may wish to participate.

“When I appear before Members on October 14 2021, I will outline the programme of development I am undertaking and the progress I have made. I hope that this will provide at least the beginning of an effective and purposeful resolution of the complaints. However, far more importantly, my deep desire that this learning will equip me to make a greater positive difference to addressing violence and victimisation of women in North Yorkshire.”

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