I have always been clear that protecting women and girls from violence and supporting victims is of the utmost importance. I was glad to stand on a manifesto which pledged to continue the fight against the perpetrators of violence against women and girls.
I am proud that this country is built on the historic values of unity, inclusivity, tolerance and mutual respect. Hate crime, in all its forms, goes directly against these values and it is completely unacceptable that anyone in our society should live in fear of intimidation or violence. As such, we must stand up for diversity and face down discrimination wherever we see it.
Since the publication of the Hate Crime Action Plan in 2016 I have been encouraged by the progress that has been made, which has seen an increase in reporting and improvements in identification and recording of crime by the police. However, rates of attrition within the criminal justice system remain worryingly high and targeted online abuse continues to present a significant problem. While in contrast to overall trends, under-reporting still exists within specific groups.
You may be aware of the wide-ranging Law Commission review into hate crime. Work on this is well underway and the review will identify any gaps within the current legislation and determine if there should be additional protected characteristics such as misogyny and age. The Law Commission's consultation closed on 24 December 2020 and I am glad those with an interest, including perhaps yourself, had the opportunity to share their views. The Government will of course consider the review's recommendations when they are complete.
There is of course always more work to do and it is therefore good news that the Home Secretary has appointed Nimco Ali as an Independent Adviser on Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls. Nimco Ali will advise the Home Secretary and other ministers on the government’s new Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy. It is welcome that Ministers will be bringing forward the new strategy this year.
You may be interested to know that the Government has reopened a call for evidence to further collect views from those with lived experience of, or views on, crimes considered as violence against women and girls. The consultation previously ran for 10 weeks from December to February. It will now remain open until 26 March 2021 and I would encourage you to take part. Further information can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/violence-against-women-and-….
It is right that the most serious offenders, including those who have committed violent and sexual offences should spend more time in prison to match the severity of their crimes. The Prime Minister has been clear that the Government he leads will strengthen public confidence in the criminal justice system and I will support legislation designed to achieve this.
Ministers have now outlined plans to legislate, through the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. This will extend the approach mentioned above by ending the halfway release of offenders sentenced to between four and seven years for serious crimes including rape, manslaughter and grievous bodily harm with intent. This change will mean that they will instead have to spend two-thirds of their time behind bars.
I await with interest the return of the Bill from the House of Lords and will consider the amendments that they may or may not have made to it at that time. It is important that the Commons and the Lords have separate and distinct processes in order to ensure the best legislative outcomes can be achieved in that independence