Why Sarah Everard tragedy must lead prompt tougher sentences for men who murder and attack women – Bill Carmichael
Sadly, there is nothing new in murders, rapes and sexual assaults. They have happened through the years and the statistics tell us the perpetrators are overwhelmingly male and a disproportionate number of victims are female.
But since the abduction and murder of Sarah Everard by a serving Metropolitan Police officer in March last year, it seems hardly a day goes by without news of yet another horrible attack.
Sisters Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman stabbed to death in a London park; community police officer Julia James killed while out walking her dog in Kent; Gracie Spinks stabbed to death by a former colleague in Derbyshire; schoolteacher Sabina Nessa killed on her way to meet a friend in a bar; teenager Bobbi-Anne McLeod abducted from a bus stop in Plymouth and found murdered; 12-year-old Ava White stabbed to death at the Christmas lights switch-on in Liverpool.
There is even a Twitter account – CountingDeadWomen – that records incidents on an almost daily basis. In fact, when I checked with the Office for National Statistics I was in for a surprise, because according to the figures, in the year up to March 2020, 207 women were killed in Great Britain – a decline on the previous year.
Nevertheless, the statistics make for grim reading. In the 10 years to 2018 1,425 women were killed in the UK – that’s about one every three days. According to the Crime Survey for England and Wales there were 1.6 million women who suffered domestic abuse – about seven per cent of the female population. An estimated three per cent of women experienced sexual assault and five per cent stalking.
A shocking 25 per cent of women aged between 18 and 74 had experienced some form of abuse before 16 years of age. And although men are much more likely to be the victims of violent crime, they are also much more likely to be the perpetrators. Nine out of 10 killers, for example, are men.
So, what can be done about this level of violent crime against women? There have been various suggestions, including improved street lighting, placing undercover police officers in bars, more CCTV cameras and even using flying drones to keep an eye on women as they walk home.
But as many feminist thinkers have pointed out, all these ideas place the onus on women to keep themselves safe, instead of focusing on the real problem – violent men.
Last year the Home Office announced an overhaul of the system of investigating rape to try to push up the current very poor conviction rate. Included in the plan is an idea to concentrate on investigating the credibility of suspects rather than the complainants. Other ideas include making street harassment a criminal offence and naming misogyny as a ‘hate crime’.
All well and good, but aren’t we missing a far simpler solution? That is stiffer sentences for repeat violent offenders. Take the example of convicted sex offender Paul Robson, who absconded from HMP North Sea Camp in Lincolnshire, where he was serving two life sentences for breaking into a 23-year-old’s home in Oxford and sexually assaulting her at knifepoint.
Robson had a previous conviction for assaulting a 12-year-girl for which he received a 42-month jail sentence. After being released early he went on to attack an eight-year-old girl and was jailed for eight years.
After again being released early, he assaulted 31-year-old woman and was jailed for another five years. Three weeks after again being released from prison early, he carried out the attack in Oxford. Seriously, how many chances does he get?
Lincolnshire Police said Robson presented “a particular danger to women and children” before he was finally reapprehended yesterday.
This prompts the question – what the hell was he doing in an open prison with minimal security and being prepared for yet another early release?
If we really want to keep women and girls safe from predators, we need to treat violent and sexual crimes more seriously with long prison terms – and we must stop letting dangerous monsters like Robson out of jail early.
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