Yvette Cooper: Too little has changed since Leeds women's safety marches

Almost 50 years since the Women’s Safety Marches in Leeds, our daughters still face the same risks of abuse as our grandmothers, Yvette Cooper has said.

In an interview with The Yorkshire Post, Labour’s shadow home secretary said that the movement which started in response to the crimes of Peter Sutcliffe has not seen the change that Yorkshire deserves.

Speaking following her speech to the Labour Party’s conference in Liverpool last week, Ms Cooper said that her party would commit to a 10-year programme to halve the number of violent crimes against women and girls.

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“300 women across the country are likely to be raped today, and of those cases, only three or four of them are likely to actually make it to court,” she said.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper speaking during the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool.Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper speaking during the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool.
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper speaking during the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool.

“Women feel just really sick and tired of the fact that nothing changes. We've been talking about this for a long time.

“The first women's safety marches in the country were in Leeds nearly 50 years ago, when women were told to stay off the streets because they weren't safe.

“Instead [women] said, no, what we want is change, we want criminals caught, we want action against perpetrators, we want our streets to be safe.

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“Nearly 50 years on, you are still worrying about getting home safely.

“We shouldn't have a situation where our daughters face the same threats or risks of abuse as our grandmothers.”

Ms Cooper said that Labour will introduce dedicated domestic abuse specialists in 999 centres, as well as dedicate rape investigation units in all police forces in order to tackle this.

In addition police will use counter-terrorism tactics such as surveillance to bring the 100 or so most dangerous perpetrators of violence against women and girls to justice.

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Labour’s shadow frontbencher acknowledged that halving the number of crimes will be a tough task, but insisted that the party wants to see the number of crimes fall at the same time as encouraging more women to report their experiences.

It comes as the Government pledged to send more foreign prisoners home, with ministers under pressure to act amid serious pressure on prison capacity.

However, Ms Cooper said that it will not create extra prison places on top of the Conservative’s existing pledge for extra prison places.

Ms Cooper said that the party would have a four-point approach to dealing with prison overcrowding.

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This would be through solving the number of criminals in prison stuck on remand, increasing the number of and quality of community sentences, as well as work on crime prevention, in addition to completing the Tory’s prison-building programme.

She stressed that community sentences are “not an alternative” for people who are committing serious crimes, as they will need to go to prison.

The Government has allocated £4 billion pounds for building additional prison cells, but only £1.3 billion has been spent so far, Ms Cooper added.