Top police officer to be put in charge of tackling violence against women and girls

Priti Patel is set to announce a strategy to tackle violence against women and girls. Credit: PA

A top police officer will be put in charge of tackling violence against women and girls in England and Wales, the home secretary will announce.

The announcement comes as part of a review which will be published by Home Secretary Priti Patel on Wednesday.

The report comes out against a backdrop of dismal conviction rates for rape, despite the number of reported incidents on the rise.

Earlier this year, the Everyone’s Invited website also highlighted allegations of a “rape culture” in education settings.

The case of Sarah Everard, who was murdered by police officer Wayne Couzens near Clapham Common in March, prompted mass demonstrations about women’s safety.

Sarah Everard Credit: Family handout

The new national policing lead is part of a broader strategy to deliver "lasting change", Priti Patel said, to better protect women and girls on the street, at home and online.

More than 180,000 contributors have helped shaped the strategy, designed to tackle violence against women and girls.

The strategy also seeks to criminalise so-called virginity testing, described by MPs as a “medieval” practice.

It also sets out a commitment to appoint two new so-called “Violence Against Women and Girls Transport Champions”, which the government said will “drive forward positive change and tackle the problems faced by female passengers on public transport”.

Further pledges include the Ministry of Justice commissioning a 24/7 rape and sexual assault helpline, while the Department for Education will work with the Office for Students to tackle sexual harassment and abuse in higher education, the government said.

Ahead of the report's release, Ms Patel said: “The safety of women and girls across the country, wherever they are, is an absolute priority for me.

“It is unacceptable that women and girls are still subject to harassment, abuse, and violence, and I do not accept that violence against women and girls is inevitable.

“I am determined to give the police the powers they need to crack down on perpetrators and carry out their duties to protect the public whilst providing victims with the care and support they deserve.

“This strategy, shaped by the responses of those who bravely came forward and shared their stories and experiences, will deliver real and lasting change.”

Priti Patel Credit: Aaron Chown/PA

Rose Caldwell, chief executive of Plan International UK, said it was “very disappointed” the strategy does not include new legislation on public sexual harassment.

She said: “Without a new law, millions of girls will be left unprotected.

“However, the government has recognised that this is an urgent issue that needs more attention.

“We urge the government to quickly deliver its promise to review gaps in the legislation – and then it must commit to a new Public Sexual Harassment Law.”

The founder of Everyone's Invited said rape culture is "everywhere", including schools. Credit: PA Images

Shadow home office minister Jess Phillips, said: “The services and support required to end violence against women and girls cannot run on warm words alone.

"How are we in a situation where we have better protections for statues than for women?

“Labour has set out a wealth of proposals to tackle Violence Against Women’s and Girls but the Tories are dragging their feet. The Government should step up to the plate and take action rather than more warm words.”