[1st Allocated Day]

Part of Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill – in the House of Commons at 7:48 pm on 15th March 2021.

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Photo of Florence Eshalomi Florence Eshalomi Labour/Co-operative, Vauxhall 7:48 pm, 15th March 2021

I start by offering my deepest condolences to the friends and family of Sarah Everard. May her soul rest in peace.

Parts of Clapham Common fall within my constituency, and having lived in Brixton all my life, I have walked the same streets that Sarah did. My first job was at the Sainsbury’s supermarket on Clapham High Street and my sixth-form college, St Francis Xavier Catholic Sixth Form College, is located at the southern tip of Clapham Common at Clapham South. I have felt afraid, and I do not want my daughter growing up and making the same adjustments that I did—that all women do. In the past few days, I have been contacted by hundreds of women and men—young and old, grandmothers, mothers, sisters, fathers, brothers—who live in Clapham and across my constituency of Vauxhall. Now they no longer feel safe.

Our streets and our public spaces should not be places of fear for women. We need to listen to women’s voices and we must believe what they are telling us. That includes making sure we listen to all women, including the voices of black women and trans women. Far too often, we do not hear the names of black women and minority ethnic women in the news or on social media, but sadly, many of them have been failed by the police and the criminal justice system. So I say the names of Blessing Olusegun, Joy Morgan, Bibaa Henry, Nicole Smallman and many others who have died on our streets. Only then can we start to heal the mistrust and put in place long overdue protections to protect all women. We must and we will reclaim the streets.

The Bill is wide-ranging and it contains a number of important measures that I welcome. I pay tribute to my hon. Friends for their tireless campaigning on dangerous driving, protecting our emergency service workers, reforming the Disclosure and Barring Service scheme, and widening the law to prevent adults from abusing their positions of trust and engaging in sexual relationships with young people under 18. These measures will make us feel safer.

However, the Bill is also a missed opportunity for much-needed reforms. It does not do nearly enough to address the urgent issue of racial disproportionality in our criminal justice system. As co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on knife crime and violence reduction, I am disappointed that the Government have missed an opportunity to focus on prevention by ensuring that the organisations that need the long-term funding to tackle serious violence and build trust with communities that feel they are sometimes viewed as the perpetrators when they are actually victims, are not included. That includes the many girls and young women caught up in violence associated with gang violence.

I want to focus the rest of my remarks on some of the other measures proposed in the Bill. Those who seek to control the expression of the right to protest—