We must do better to protect women and girls
While I am new to the role of commissioner, I am not new to the growing concerns being voiced daily around the safety of women and girls in our country.
Earlier this year I, along with the rest of the country, was shocked by the appalling murder of Sarah Everard.
Just six months on, we are equally horrified by Sabina Nessa’s tragic loss. Such a young, vibrant, woman with her life ahead of her and cruelly snuffed out. My thoughts are with her family and friends.
It would be easy to not say these women’s names, to think this isn’t our problem or issue, but this week I’ve read statistics that show that in the last six months in the UK, 77 other women and children have also lost their lives where a man was the main culprit or suspect.
Alongside the appallingly low prosecution figures for rape and other serious sexual crimes something has to change. We must do better to protect women and girls.
Here in Wiltshire, we have just seen the launch of Operation Vigilant – specifically set up to keep people safe from predatory sexual violence and harm while they are out at night.
Uniformed and plain-clothed officers patrolled areas in Swindon to help provide reassurance. So what, you may say?
But during the evening it was needed. Officers, using guidance from the National Crime Agency, identified and spoke to five people about their behaviour, which was causing concern.
I’ve welcomed calls for fundamental change across policing and other partner agencies to tackle this growing epidemic of violence against women and girls (VAWG). But ‘welcoming’ it doesn’t seem enough.
We need to do more - from prevention work in schools to the management of the most dangerous offenders.
The police cannot tackle the epidemic of violence our women and girls are facing alone. It said the whole system – including policing, health and education – must take a fundamentally new approach.
It is truly shocking victims are still experiencing such a poor service, cases are taking far too long in the criminal justice system and that outcomes for criminal investigations are so low.
We must do better for victims, we need to try and ensure there are no other families like Sarah’s and Sabina’s - and we must ensure justice is served in a timely and consistent manner.
I am glad it has been recognised that to truly effect change, and make our communities safer places for all, that it is not the job of the police alone, but this isn’t new.
We know that all statutory agencies should be working together in a more joined-up manner, we know that all police forces deal with VAWG in different ways and that serious, persistent, offenders aren’t being targeted at the earliest opportunity - and it simply isn’t good enough.
We should be tackling this epidemic in the same multi-agency way we tackle home-grown terrorism, and with as much intensity. Only that way can women and girls have confidence in the police and criminal justice system that is there to protect them.