The Bill, throughout its passage so far, has rightly attracted public outcry – with the mobilisation of a mass movement to resist its oppressive measures and protests taking place across the country. The proposed legislation represents a deeply authoritarian challenge to our fundamental rights and freedoms and contains a raft of measures that erode our civil liberties while failing to engage with or address the complex, underlying causes of violence against women and girls (VAWG). It relies on criminal justice cure-alls which will not positively alter the outcomes experienced by survivors and will exacerbate existing racial inequalities and could result in the further criminalisation of Black and minoritised people.
We are concerned about the way a new legal duty for specified authorities in a local area to work together to reduce serious violence will operate. The approach risks crude profiling, discrimination, intrusion into private life and creating a pipeline into the criminal justice system. We have concerns around discriminatory and disproportionate targeting of Black and minoritised communities, as well as the potential for data-sharing which threatens individual privacy and places minoritised women, and particularly migrant women, at risk.
As noted in our joint Committee Stage briefing
, we remain concerned about the draconian measures in the Bill that would curb the right to protest, a right that is at the heart of the struggle for women’s rights, particularly the rights of Black and minoritised women.
A disturbing example of how minoritised and marginalised women are at the sharp edge of this Bill’s proposals is how Part Four of the Bill seeks to further criminalise Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) communities through a new criminal offence of trespass with the intent to reside, and the extension of existing powers in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. Analysis by Friends Families and Travellers
points out that these measures will compound existing inequalities and disproportionally affect specific minoritised communities in a way which likely conflicts with equality and human rights legislation. Additionally, the Bill’s measures would have harmful long-term consequences for women, who will be at greater risk of being criminalised and being held in custody for longer. Given racialised approaches to policing and sentencing, this will disproportionately affect racially minoritised women.
This Bill, for the first time, seeks to put these invasive practices on a statutory footing – but the proposals fail to adequately protect the rights of victims when it comes to mining their phone data – data that relates not only to them, but their friends, relatives, colleagues and communities. The devastating impact of current disclosure practices were highlighted during Commitee Stage by the Victims Commissioner
and members of the Committee
. Provisions around Mobile Phone Extraction in Part Two of this Bill must ensure that police officers do not simply snatch all the data that is available from a device – a key safeguard that is absent from the provisions of the Bill as currently drafted. It is also completely inappropriate for immigration enforcement and others to have powers to obtain this data.
Andrea Simon, Director said:
“EVAW has long campaigned for the criminal justice system to deliver the justice victims and survivors deserve and at every turn survivors are dismissed, disbelieved, referred to the Home Office for immigration enforcement, forced to hand over their mobile phone or therapy records, re-traumatised, and subjected to sexist myths and stereotypes.
Male violence is not inevitable, and we must therefore be cautious of measures to address VAWG that narrowly focus on policing and prisons rather than prevention, and rush through legislation that exacerbates inequality without addressing underlying structural discrimination.”