Labour has announced it will vote against the government’s key crime legislation because it is a “mess” which could lead to harsher penalties for damaging a statue than attacking a woman.
Shadow justice secretary David Lammy said the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill contains “poorly thought out” proposals which would impose disproportionate controls on the right to protest.
He instead urged ministers to drop the legislation, which will come before the Commons this week, and work cross-party to legislate to tackle violence against women.
The call comes in the wake of the suspected murder of Sarah Everard, who went missing while walking home from a friend’s flat in south London on March 3.
Mr Lammy said Ms Everard’s death has “instigated a national demand for action to tackle violence against women”.
“This is no time to be rushing through poorly thought-out measures to impose disproportionate controls on free expression and the right to protest.
“Now is the time to unite the country and put in place long overdue protections for women against unacceptable violence, including action against domestic homicides, rape and street harassment. And we must tackle the misogynistic attitudes that underpin the abuse women face.
“Instead, the Conservatives have brought forward a Bill that is seeking to divide the country. It is a mess, which could lead to harsher penalties for damaging a statue than for attacking a woman.
“Labour will be voting against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill on this basis.
“We are calling on the Government to drop its poorly thought out proposals and instead work with Labour to legislate to tackle violence against women which is forcing so many across the country to live in fear.
“As well as to deliver the important areas that are long promised, like tougher sentences for attacks on frontline workers and increased sentences for terrorists.”
The party has called on the government to make misogyny a hate crime and increase minimum sentences for rapists and stalkers.
On our politics podcast Calling Peston, listen to Jess Phillips talk about violence against girls
It also wants whole-life tariffs to be introduced for anyone found guilty of abduction and sexual assault and murder of a stranger.
Home Office minister Victoria Atkins did not rule out making it illegal for men to harass women in the street in an interview on Sunday.
She told Times Radio: “We have been very clear that we are listening to all suggestions. I don’t want to pre-empt what may come out in our survey … nothing is off the table at the moment.
“We absolutely want to understand what people’s experiences are and what we can do to address those.”