A Birmingham MP has defended her claim that attacks on women like those seen in Cologne happen in Birmingham every week.
Jess Phillips, the MP for Birmingham Yardley, provoked fury after comparing a night out in Birmingham’s Broad Street to the shocking New Years Eve attacks on women in Cologne as she spoke on BBC One show Question Time.
Refugees have been blamed for the attacks, and Ms Phillips was arguing that it was wrong to single out refugees because sexual assaults took place everywhere.
Speaking to the Birmingham Mail, she said:
If we convicted everyone who groped women in this country, we’d have no space in our prisons to put them in.
It follows her appearance on BBC One show Question Time, where she took part in a panel which discussed whether it was right for European countries to take in refugees from war-torn countries such as Syria.
A member of the audience asked about attacks near Cologne’s railway station, when around 1,000 men launched what has been described as an “organised attack” against women.
Attackers were reported to be of North African or Arab in appearance, sparking debate in Germany because of the influx of more than a million migrants and refugees in the past year.
Ms Phillips told television viewers:
There is violence against women and girls that you are describing, a very similar situation to what happened in Cologne could be described on Broad Street in Birmingham every week where women are baited and heckled.
Her comments triggered an angry response on Twitter, with some critics accusing her of exaggerating - and making Birmingham look bad.
Speaking to the Birmingham Mail, Ms Phillips added:
In every city there will be places where there are groups of men, drunk, and lots of stuff going on, and women have to constantly worry about being felt up and suffering street harassment.
She had used Broad Street as an example of a place in the UK where this behaviour took place but it happened in every part of the country, she said.
I bet you if you were to look through the back catalogues of your newspaper you could find incidents of people being dragged into taxis in every night spot in Birmingham.
There have been reports that the attacks in Cologne were organised, but Ms Phillips said she was not suggesting organised attacks took place
If it was an organised thing then I don’t think that’s what’s happening here, I think it’s just a general situation in society that when big groups are getting together and drinking and celebrating, women are unfortunately, all too often, suffering unwanted sexual advances and touching and shouting and calling you all sorts of things.