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Labour’s Jess Phillips has hit out at the government’s record on crime, saying “rapists never had it so good”.
The shadow minister for domestic violence and safeguarding claimed women’s lives were “not a priority” for the government.
“Whenever you read in a newspaper report that a woman has been murdered, and they say, ‘We don’t want alarm in the community because don’t worry, no other parties are involved’…it’s a ‘don’t worry, it’s just a woman been murdered by her husband’,” she said.
Phillips said other issues such as terrorism and county lines drug dealing received more attention than violence against women and girls, because both made people think: “That could happen to me”.
But she added: “The reality is the most likely crime that is ever going to happen to me is male violence against women and we have got to stop diminishing the idea that it is happening to somebody else.
“The reason that we have done nothing to have a strategy to tackle offenders is because it isn’t as much as a vote winner as people in boats in the sea, and being allegedly tough on crime.
“The government isn’t tough on crime. Rapists have never had it so good.”
Phillips made the comments during a fringe meeting at Labour’s annual party conference in Brighton.
The event, organised by the End Violence Against Women Coalition, took on an added poignancy following the death of primary school teacher Sabina Nessa last week and the murder of Sarah Everard earlier this year.
On Sunday police investigating Nessa’s death arrested a man on suspicion of murder.
A 36-year-old man was arrested in East Sussex at about 03:00 BST, in what Scotland Yard described as a “significant development”.
Nessa’s murder has reignited the debate about women’s safety on London’s streets and whether there should be increased CCTV and street lighting as a means to protect them from harm.
However, critics argue the debate shifts the onus away from changing male behaviour and on to women changing theirs.
Shadow solicitor general Ellie Reeves said at the event that “we have absolutely fundamentally failed women if we think the only way that they can be kept safe from male violence is by having CCTV on parks”.
“Sabina Nessa was walking five minutes from her home to meet a friend.
“Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry were celebrating a birthday in a park.
“Sarah Everard was walking home from a friend’s house one evening.
“The idea that the way we get out of this appalling and sickening situation is by having more CCTV is just awful.”
She added: “We need to look at what has caused this epidemic in the first place. We need to look at power and equality. We need to look at support services. We need to look at the criminal justice system and make sure that it works and delivers.
“But having more CCTV should be – shouldn’t have to be – the answer.”
This summer the government announced a top police officer role will be put in charge of tackling violence against women and girls in England and Wales, as recommended in a report following Everard’s death.
The government’s violence against women and girls strategy(VAWG) includes measures such as a 24-hour rape and sexual assault helpline, £5m of funding to tackle violence in public places at night and an online tool that allows members of the public to log areas they feel to be unsafe.
The Home Office has been approached for comment.
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