How will new 888 phone service for women's safety work after it is backed by Priti Patel?

Will a new emergency phone number make any difference? Lucy Watson reports

Plans for a new 888 phone service aimed at protecting women who feel vulnerable walking home has been supported by Home Secretary Priti Patel.

The proposal for the emergency number by BT chief executive Philip Jansen comes amid an outcry over women's safety after the murder of Sarah Everard and the death of Sabina Nessa.

Ms Patel told the Daily Mail: “This new phone line is exactly the kind of innovative scheme which would be good to get going as soon as we can. I’m now looking at it with my team and liaising with BT.”

A spokeswoman for the Home Office said the department had received a letter from Mr Jansen and "will respond in due course".

She continued: “As set out in our strategy earlier this year, we need a whole of society approach to tackling Violence against Women and Girls and welcome joint working between the private sector and government.”

How will it work?

Users would be able to download an app on their mobile phone and then enter their home address and other regular destinations.

Before walking, the user would start the app, or call or text 888, which would give the expected journey time and their journeys can be tracked via GPS.

A message would be sent to the user at the time they were predicted to arrive home and a failure to respond would lead to calls to emergency contacts and then the police.

Where did the idea come from?

BT chief executive Mr Jansen wrote in the Mail that the deaths of Ms Everard and Sabina Nessa filled him “with outrage and disgust”, making him realise that throughout the UK “the simple act of walking alone is making people feel anxious and at risk”.

It led to him and his team to come up with the idea of a “walk me home” service.

BT has run the 999 emergency number for 84 years.

Priti Patel backs emergency phone service to protect women as they walk home Credit: PA

Former Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens used his police issue handcuffs and warrant card falsely arrest Ms Everard, 33, as she was walking home during lockdown. He then raped and murdered her.

He was sentenced to life behind bars last Thursday.

Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick on Friday announced Baroness Casey of Blackstock will lead the review of culture and standards at the Metropolitan Police after Ms Everard's murder.

Is it just for women and girls?

No, Mr Jansen has said the service could be used by anyone who is afraid while out walking.

There has been significant public outrage over the recent murders of young women attacked while they were walking home Credit: Niall Carson/PA

How much will it cost?

The project could reportedly cost as little as £50 million.

When might it start?

The new “walk me home” service could be in operation by Christmas, according to the Mail.

What are the challenges in implementing the idea?

Police Federation spokesman Phill Matthews told the Mail “anything that improves people’s safety we would not be opposed to per se” but said there could be issues if the system “generated a load more work for police”.

BT's Mr Jansen acknowledged there could concerns around privacy and misuse of the app, including wasting police time, which already happens with the 999 service when people abuse it.