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Politics

MPs vote against making misogyny a hate crime

The legislation would have allowed judges to hand out harsher sentences if crimes were motivated by misogyny

MPs have voted not to make misogyny a hate crime just days before the first anniversary of the murder of Sarah Everard. The development means crimes motivated by gender will not face bigger punishments or be tracked systematically by forces across the country to help identify perpetrators.

Passed by the Lords as an amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts bill, the proposed measures would have also required police to record if crimes were motivated by gender hatred. British police forces — and London’s Metropolitan Police in particular — have faced growing accusations of misogyny since Everard was murdered by a serving police officer in March 2021.

Several police commissioners have backed the proposal and a number of forces are already recording crimes motivated by gender. The rejection had been anticipated, however, with the Home Office citing a Law Commission report which said the move would be “more harmful than helpful” to victims of gender-based violence, and calling on MPs to oppose the amendment.

Labour MP Stella Creasy gave an impassioned plea for the government to support the new law, insisting that the Law Commission’s conclusions were based on an earlier proposal so were no longer valid.

“Let’s recognise that misogyny is driving crimes in this country, that the Law Commission has said that, [and] their arguments were technical about how you do the drafting, they weren’t about the principle,” she said.

The report added that making misogyny a hate crime could make it harder to prosecute sexual offenders.

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“It would be ineffective at protecting women and girls and in some cases, counterproductive,” the Law Commission said in December.

“If applied in the context of rape and domestic abuse it could make it more difficult to secure convictions and create unhelpful hierarchies of victims.”

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper earlier this month condemned the government’s refusal to introduce legislation to tackle violence against women and girls.

“It is shameful that the home secretary is still refusing to make violence against women and girls a strategic policing requirement so it has the same prominence as tackling organised crime,” Cooper said.

A private members’ bill, the Hate Crime (Misogyny) bill, is due to have its second reading on March 18, and could provide another route to the measures becoming law.

MPs will continue to debate amendments put forward by the Lords late into the evening.

While measures addressing protesters “locking on” to fixed objects and increases to police powers of stop and search were removed, MPs are still to consider restrictions on noise at protests, and on whether people should be sent to prison for blocking motorways.

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