On May 6, Sussex will elect its Police & Crime Commissioner (PCC), whose role is to hold the Chief Constable to account for the performance of the police. They are also responsible for the local police budget and sets the precept, amount of Council Tax we contribute, to pay for policing. This election was due to take place last year but was postponed because of the pandemic. In the runup to the election Rory Finn asked all parties where they stand on LGBTQ+ issues. Liberal Democrat Jamie Bennett did not respond.
In light of the recent case of Sarah Everard, who was allegedly attacked by a serving police officer, do you think the police are best placed to protect women from violence?
Katy Bourne (incumbent) – Conservative
The entire police service has been sickened and shocked that a serving police officer is accused of the murder of a young woman who was just walking home. It is an unavoidable fact of life that even our most trusted public servants, be they doctors, nurses, police officers or soldiers, will sometimes commit crimes. The public’s reaction and the revulsion expressed by their professional peers when that trust is broken, shows how rare and unusual it is for those whose duty it is to protect us, to hurt us.
Paul Richards – Labour & Co-operative
Protecting women from violence is about more than policing. It starts with boys and men: male attitudes, language, cultures and behaviours. It is about learnt behaviours and observed social norms, including in the media, and ultimately it is about dismantling patriarchy.
When it comes to policing I would recruit and promote more women, introduce robust training from the recruitment process onwards and throughout an officer’s professional development, and weed out male officers who perpetuated misogynistic behaviour or attitudes. I would smash ‘canteen culture’ where it exists, and disrupt male-only spaces like the golf course, pub and Lodge.
As the tragic case of Shana Grice, a Brighton woman murdered by her ex-boyfriend stalker, shows, women are often discounted or disbelieved when they complain about male threats to their safety. The Judge said, “the police jumped to conclusions and Shana was stereotyped”. The police must be trained to listen and act when women warn about threats, or complain about harassment or violence.
Kahina Bouhassane – Green
Despite the hard work of many officers, policing is broken in Sussex, as in the rest of the country. Over 10 years of Tory leadership and austerity has left a system that is not working, and women are particularly at risk. Misogynistic hate crimes have risen sharply across the county in recent years, yet conviction rates remain shockingly low. Rape and domestic abuse have both been effectively decriminalised, and while Sussex Police recorded 2,020 stalking incidents in the year to March 2020, only 29 Stalking Protection Orders were issued during the whole of 2020.
Roy Williams – Independent
I think the idea that the police can protect women on the street is a myth. They simply do not have the resources to respond in a timely manner when attacks are reported, though they do have target response times for ’emergency graded calls’.
In this country we have a constitutional right to bear arms to protect ourselves. It is only because of government policy that routine possession of firearms for protection is not allowed. However, as a constitutionalist I would be seeking to allow women (or any other person who may feel vulnerable for that matter) to apply to carry a noxious spray for their own protection on the street and I would expect the attitude of police to be to open to allow such possession rather than to find reasons not to allow it.
There would need to be a screening process and so a history of mental illness or a conviction for a violent offence may bar a person from applying but I would also be advocating that people should be allowed to possess a firearm for protection within their own homes.
If you live in a big house in the country and you hear someone breaking in downstairs in the middle of the night, then it is my belief that you should absolutely be able to protect yourself and your family within your property. Similarly screening would take place but again applications would be allowed rather than disallowed. I am not suggesting that lethal weapons can be carried out on the street but within one’s own home for one’s own protection why not? And non-lethal sprays for vulnerable people on the street why not?
Join us again tomorrow for answers to the questions: Misogyny will be recorded as hate crime from the autumn, alongside the existing strands of race, religion, sexual orientation, transgender and disability. Would treating such offences as hate go far enough or do you believe legislation to make specific offences must be passed by parliament first? If so, what would you like to see.
What measures have you or intend to implement to combat misogyny in Sussex. Do you think they will help women feel safe in Sussex? What role does the Police have in this?