Police forces across Britain will record crimes against women as hate crimes motivated by misogyny after ministers amended existing legislation in response calls by women’s safety campaigners in the wake of the murder of Sarah Everard in London last week.
Police officers will be required to record if a crime against a woman was motivated by “hostility based on their sex”. Crimes such as stalking and all sexual offences will be covered under the new legislation.
The move comes as calls have grown for tougher measures after a policeman was charged with the murder of Sarah Everard, who vanished in south London on March 3 – a killing that prompted revulsion and protests and moved the Prime Minister Boris Johnson to call for a change in “cultural attitudes” towards women’s safety.
A police officer, Wayne Couzens, has been charged with Everard’s kidnap and murder and will appear in court on Tuesday.
Campaigners say changing the law to classify misogyny as a hate crime would help in the detection and prevention of offences including street harassment, sexual assault, rape and domestic abuse.
Ms Everard’s murder of Sarah Everard has triggered a debate about violence against women and raised awareness of how it curtails everyday freedoms.
About a quarter of 43 police constabularies in England and Wales have already made misogyny a hate crime, trialed the policy or are considering implementing it.
Similar protections already exist for race, religion, sexual orientation, disability and transgender identity and can lead to harsher penalties for those convicted.
Campaigners say misogyny generates a culture in which violence and abuse is tolerated, excused and repeated.
“I urge every woman who has walked with keys in her hands at night, been abused or attacked online or offline to come forward and be heard,” said Stella Creasy MP, who has led calls for misogyny to be made a hate crime.
“This is our moment for change – rather than telling women not to worry about violence … it’s time to send a message that women should be equally able to live free from fear of assault or harm from those who target them simply for who they are.”