The case of the Black Cab rapist, John Worboys, may well qualify as one of the most egregious failures of modern policing of our times. Alleged to have assaulted over 100 women using his taxi as a lure and a crime site, Worboys terrorised women in the London Metropolitan area for the best part of a decade before eventually being apprehended and imprisoned in 2009 for 19 separate sexual assaults. This week the Worboys case is once again in the public eye as a claim by two of his victims, DSD and NBV, that the Metropolitan Police violated their human rights by failing adequately to investigate their claims comes before the Supreme Court.
One has to wonder how such serious criminal activity in a public setting could go unchecked for so long. The simple answer is that the Metropolitan Police failed Worboys’ victims utterly and unequivocally, their investigation marred by multiple systemic and operational failings, as elaborated in painstaking detail by Mr Justice Green in a High Court judgment in 2014. (more…)
On July 13, 2016 Nottinghamshire police became the first force in the UK to recognise misogyny as a hate crime. Hate crime is defined as ‘any criminal offence which is perceived, by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a personal characteristic’. In practical terms, this means that in Nottinghamshire police can record reported incidents such as wolf whistling, verbal abuse, taking photographs without consent, and using mobile phones to send unwanted messages with an additional ‘flag’ or qualifier on their incident log as hate crime. It appears that the move is largely symbolic, as gender animus is not a relevant aggravating factor for the purposes of sentencing under relevant UK ‘hate crime’ legislation, and does not create any new criminal offences. However, the initiative has been supported by the force working in partnership with the Nottingham Women’s Centre and has involved the specialised training of officers to better identify and respond to the public harassment of women by men.
The announcement last week of the initiative was met with the predictable level of teeth gnashing and cries of ‘political correctness gone mad’ characteristic of any policy announcement addressed to countering gender inequality. While the move may be largely bureaucratic, it does present an opportunity to look again at the spectre of criminalisation in our time and consider a related question: What is the role of the criminal law in regulating gender (in)equality, and what should it be? (more…)
By Prof Lois Bibbings, Professor of Law, Gender and History (University of Bristol Law School).*
A hundred years ago general military conscription was introduced into Britain. The Military Service Acts of 1916 meant that men aged between 18 and 41 were deemed to have enlisted and decisions as to what happened to them were now in the hands of the state. However, in a controversial and seemingly contradictory move, the Act allowed men to be exempted from military service on the grounds that they had a conscientious objection to the undertaking of combatant service. These conscientious objectors (COs) deserve to be commemorated – and that is precisely what a series of events around the country are seeking to do.
Although no exact figures exist, Cyril Pearce, the brains behind the marvellous Pearce Register of British World War One Conscientious Objectors, estimates that there were 20,000 COs – a very small number as compared to the around 5 million men who joined the military, most of whom were conscripts. Objectors were a diverse group. Their widely varying perspectives on the Act and their consciences led them to take very different courses. What is clear though is that they displayed remarkable conviction and courage, both as individuals and collectively. (more…)