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Violence Against Women and Girls

Volume 705: debated on Tuesday 14 December 2021

We have introduced legislation to tackle crimes including stalking, forced marriage and female genital mutilation in the Domestic Abuse Act 2021. The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill will also introduce measures to crack down on serious violent and sexual offenders, including by ensuring that the most serious sexual and violent offenders spend longer in prison; to reform pre-charge bail to better protect vulnerable victims and witnesses; and to enable positive obligations to be imposed on those who pose a risk of sexual harm through sexual harm prevention orders and sexual risk orders. The victims Bill consultation has also launched, which will ensure that victims feel properly supported.

Since Sarah Everard was murdered, at least 104 more women have been killed by men. That endemic violence against women must be met with the national urgency that it deserves. Will the Minister take the opportunity to show that he is serious about the issue by committing today to classing misogyny as a hate crime?

I am very grateful to the hon. Lady, who raises this very important issue for all Members of this House. As she would expect, this Government take incredibly seriously the issue of violence against women and girls, and all our thoughts are with the families of those affected. Of course, I welcome the measures that we are taking on sentencing that I set out in my earlier answer. On misogyny specifically, we are grateful to the Law Commission for the detailed consideration it has given to its review of hate crime laws. We are of course giving that proper consideration, and we will respond as soon as we can.

Can the Minister assure me and the women and girls of Sevenoaks and Swanley that funding for Kent’s Nightingale court will continue past March next year? Kent’s Crown court case load stands at 93% above pre-pandemic levels, and we know that sexual violence crimes are most likely to be dropped due to delays. We urgently need this court to continue.

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend, who is a very passionate advocate for her constituents on these matters. It is worth pointing out that more than £1 billion has been allocated to boost capacity and accelerate recovery from the pandemic in courts and tribunals, and we have been able to reopen more of our existing court estate. The Nightingale courts provide additional capacity for the Crown court either directly or by hosting other work, which makes space for jury trials on the existing estate. These temporary courts supported our recovery, and that is why we extended their use until the end of March 2022. Decisions on future spending will be subject to ongoing spending review allocation discussions, but her point is very much heard.