Plain clothes police officers could patrol bars and nightclubs around the country as part of plans to protect women from “predatory” offenders.
Following a meeting of the Government’s Crime and Justice Taskforce chaired by the Prime Minister, Downing Street has said it is taking a series of “immediate steps” to improve security.
Among them is a countrywide roll-out of pilots of a programme where uniformed and plain clothes officers seek to actively identify predatory and suspicious offenders in the night time economy.
Here is everything you need to know about it.
What could the new measures look like?
Dubbed ‘Project Vigilant’, the pilot programme could involve officers attending areas around clubs and bars undercover, along with increased police patrols as people leave at closing time.
Other steps unveiled by Downing Street include a doubling of the Safer Streets fund – which provides neighbourhood measures such as better lighting and CCTV – to £45 million.
It also said ministers were committed to working with police forces and with police and crime commissioners to ensure the measures were more focused on preventing sexual violence.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said it could mean siting measures in parks and routes used by women on their walks home.
Project Vigilant is not actually a new concept: it was originally launched in 2019 by Thames Valley Police, and last year won a crime prevention award from the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
The five immediate steps which have been promised by the Prime Minister are:
- doubling funding of the Safer Streets fund to £45m, with more money for better lighting and CCTV
- expanding pilots of a "Project Vigilant" scheme, with undercover police patrolling bars and clubs at night
- £11m for more sexual violence advisers to support victims through the criminal justice process
- policing minister Kit Malthouse holding a summit with police and venue owners regarding protecting women post-lockdown
- consulting on a new Victims Law
Why are they being introduced?
Downing Street has said it is taking "immediate steps" to give "further reassurance" to women and girls in the wake of Sarah Everard's death.
Everard, 33, went missing after walking home from her friend’s house in south London on 3 March.
Her body was later found in woodlands near Ashford, Kent, and a Metropolitan Police officer has been charged with the marketing executive’s kidnap and murder.
“The horrific case of Sarah Everard has unleashed a wave of feeling about women not feeling safe at night," said Johnson. “We must do everything we can to ensure our streets are safe.
“Ultimately, we must drive out violence against women and girls and make every part of the criminal justice system work to better protect and defend them.”
Do the measures go far enough?
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said that while new measures are being introduced, it was appalling that women still suffered fear, intimidation and threats.
Speaking on Sky News, Raab said: “I think it is appalling that women still suffer the fear, the intimidation, the threats – and I say that as a son, a husband and a brother of a sister."
He added that there needs to be a “zero tolerance” approach to the “very small minority” who harass women on the country’s streets.
Asked on BBC Breakfast about how the Government would tackle street harassment, he said: “We need to have zero tolerance, of course all of us need to bring our children up the right way, make sure we are promoting education and equality about this.”
Meanwhile, Government adviser Nimco Ali described the ongoing political debate over violence against women following the death of Sarah Everard as a “watershed moment”.
Ms Ali, who advises ministers on combating sexual violence against women and girls, told Good Morning Britain (GMB) that things were changing.
She added: “We have to be able to work with the Government and I do think this is a watershed moment, where the Prime Minister, Home Secretary and Justice Secretary are all listening.
“I know how we can be critical on a day-to-day basis, but I honestly think there’s a massive opportunity for us to really come together and really ensure that all those voices are at the heart of the new legislation.”