Amendment 146

Domestic Abuse Bill - Committee (5th Day) – in the House of Lords at 4:15 pm on 8th February 2021.

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Lord Russell of Liverpool:

Moved by Lord Russell of Liverpool

146: Clause 70, page 54, line 8, at end insert—“(2A) The Secretary of State must issue guidance under this section which takes account of evidence about the relationship between domestic abuse and offences involving hostility based on sex.(2B) In preparing guidance under subsection (2A) the Secretary of State must require the chief officer of police of any police force to provide information relating to—(a) the number of relevant crimes reported to the police force; and(b) the number of relevant crimes reported to the police force which, in the opinion of the chief officer of police, have also involved domestic abuse.(2C) In this section—“relevant crime” means a reported crime in which—(a) the victim or any other person perceived the alleged offender, at the time of or immediately before or after the offence, to demonstrate hostility or prejudice based on sex, or(b) the victim or any other person perceived the crime to be motivated (wholly or partly) by hostility or prejudice towards persons who are of a particular sex;“sex” has the same meaning as in section 11 of the Equality Act 2010 (sex).”

Photo of Lord Russell of Liverpool Lord Russell of Liverpool Deputy Chairman of Committees

My Lords, I rise to move Amendment 146 in my name, supported by the noble Baronesses, Lady Bull and Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, and the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham. I will explore this relatively fully because it is, I think, the first time that misogyny, per se, has reared its ugly head in this Bill, so I hope that the House will forgive me if I go into detail to explain why I think it is important to consider it.

What, then, is the issue? What is this about and why on earth would anyone want to open what some might consider the Pandora’s box of recognising the link between misogyny and domestic abuse? Indeed, is this the “woke police” on the march, or is there actually a reason behind it?

Violence against women does not occur in a vacuum. Hostility towards them generates a culture in which violence and abuse are being tolerated, excused and repeated. Changing that means challenging not only individual acts of abuse but the very roots of the culture that enables it. Gathering the evidence about the extent, nature and prevalence of hostility towards women, and how these interplay with the experience of domestic abuse, is crucial to recognising these connections.

At Second Reading I mentioned the dreadful case of Kellie Sutton, a mother of three children under 15 who killed herself in 2017 after suffering five months of psychological and physical abuse from her partner, who was subsequently jailed for four years and three months and, in addition, given a 10-year criminal behaviour order requiring him to tell the police of any sexual relationship lasting more than 14 days that he enters into. Why is this case relevant to the amendment? It is because the perpetrator had already been reported to the police in previous years by three different partners. In his regulation 28 report to prevent future deaths, the senior coroner for Hertfordshire highlighted the fact that police records failed to flag up that this was a repeat domestic abuse perpetrator. The previous three complaints had been filed away as non-crime reports, which meant that the police would have found a link to the perpetrator only if they had searched for the victims, since no reports at all had been filed against the abuser. The coroner concluded in his report:

“This sort of information is clearly of value to inform officers’ decision making, when dealing with a report of potential domestic abuse and clearly of value when seeking to safeguard more widely the vulnerable parties in abusive relationships.”

The amendment seeks to do that by learning from the experience of the police forces around the country which have started to record misogyny as a hate crime. By requiring all police forces to do that and to assess how it influences incidents of domestic abuse, the amendment seeks to add to our understanding of the nature of violence against women and so the work on how to end it.

We are all aware that police forces are very stretched in their manpower resources, and that they approach domestic abuse incidents with great caution. Given the pressures that the police are under, why have some forces voluntarily taken on what some might regard as just more form-filling or box-ticking? The evidence of where misogyny has been identified as a hate crime to date by police forces in their recording of crime has been that it helps increase the understanding of the causes and consequences of violence against women. It is critical that every case of domestic abuse should be taken seriously and each individual given access to the support they need.

Both men and women may experience incidents of interpersonal violence and abuse but women are considerably more likely to experience repeated and severe forms of abuse, including sexual violence. They are also more likely to have experienced sustained physical, psychological or emotional abuse, or violence that results in injury or death. There are important differences between male violence against women and female violence against men; namely, the amount, severity and impact. Women experience much higher rates of repeated victimisation and are much more likely to be seriously hurt or killed than male victims of domestic abuse.

In one study of 96 cases of domestic abuse recorded by the police, it was found that men are significantly more likely than women to be repeat perpetrators and to use physical violence, threats and harassment. Over a six-year tracking period, the majority—83%—of recorded male perpetrators had at least two incidents of recorded abuse, with many having a lot more and one man having no fewer than 52 repeat incidents, whereas in cases where women were recorded as the perpetrator, the majority, 62%, had only one incident of abuse recorded, and the highest number of repeat incidents for any female perpetrator was eight, compared with 52.

In 2016 Nottinghamshire Police became the first police force in the country to enable women and girls to report cases of abuse and harassment as misogyny under their misogyny hate crime policy. Misogynistic hate crimes recorded by the police since Nottinghamshire adopted that policy include stalking, groping, indecent assault and kidnapping. While they initially did not include domestic abuse in that reporting as it was already being recorded as a form of crime, those involved in the scheme now say:

“Our experience of delivering training to the police tells us that, even though domestic abuse is not included within the hate crime policy, officers are often able to recognise that misogyny is likely to be at the root of this too. Similarly, we are aware that misogyny hate crime can act as a bridge to women talking about (and recognising) other forms of violence against women. Where women may feel that domestic abuse is something that happens to other women and is not linked to inequality, they are more readily able to recognise this with misogyny hate crime.”

Following Nottinghamshire’s example, the police forces in North Yorkshire, Avon and Somerset, and Northamptonshire have also made misogyny a hate crime, and are therefore already recording these figures to enable such an approach. The amendment would require other police forces to follow suit. Women’s Aid reports that police forces that are recording misogyny have not seen an influx of reporting of wolf-whistling but instead have received a growing number of reports of serious sexual harassment and assault. Making misogyny a hate crime would mean simply that police forces logged and monitored such incidents and thereby enabled to create a fuller picture of the problem, support victims and make them aware of where incidents were recurring. Indeed, women and girls need to feel that their concerns are being taken seriously by the police and that misogyny is not normalised. Categorising and calling out misogyny wherever it occurs would send a clear message that such behaviour was not acceptable, and should prevent more serious offences in the long term.

As we all know, domestic abuse cases have risen dramatically during the pandemic crisis, with cases of domestic homicides doubling in the UK. The Bill states that the Secretary of State must give guidance on the kinds of behaviour that amount to domestic abuse. The amendment states that the guidance should further take account of

“evidence about the relationship between domestic abuse and offences involving hostility based on sex.”

While there is no legal definition of “hostility”, the Crown Prosecution Service uses the everyday understanding of the word, which includes ill will, spite, contempt, prejudice, unfriendliness, antagonism, resentment and dislike. The amendment seeks to build on that concept. It would ensure that all police forces in England and Wales recorded any crimes where the victim or any other person perceived the crime to be motivated by this hostility or perceived the perpetrator to have demonstrated hostility in committing the crime. The police would then also be required to assess how that interacted with domestic abuse by making an assessment of how many of those crimes met the definition as set out in this legislation.

Proposals to recognise misogyny as a category of hate crime would therefore not make anything illegal if it was not illegal already. Instead, the amendment would help build our understanding of the forms of violence and abuse that women experience by ensuring that all were recorded. Those working in areas where this approach is being taken have reported the transformative effect that it has had on safety. As Helen Voce, CEO of the Nottingham Women’s Centre, pointed out:

“Misogyny is the soil in which violence against women grows.”

That is why we need to tackle it.

Following an amendment to the upskirting Bill, Her Majesty’s Government instructed the Law Commission to carry out a review of all hate crime and to consider incorporating misogyny as a new category of hate crime. The commission notes that there were 67,000 incidents of hate crime based on gender in 2018, 57,000 of which were targeted at women. Without recognising the role of misogyny in the experiences of women, our legal and criminal justice system masks the true extent of hostility based on gender.

This review is ongoing as it has been delayed due to the crisis. It is now due to report in July this year on how it will consult on recognising misogynistic crime within our legal system. In its interim report, the Law Commission said:

“Given that hate crime laws apply to existing criminal offences, the addition of sex and gender characteristics as a protected category would implicate any criminal offence committed in the domestic abuse context. Part of our consultation paper must therefore carefully consider how sex/gender-based hate crime protection might operate in overwhelmingly gendered contexts such as domestic abuse.”

While it is absolutely right to await the outcome of this review for the new legislation required to recognise misogyny within our criminal justice system as an aggravating factor, this amendment complements this work by gathering data about these crimes in a consistent fashion across England and Wales ahead of any legislative proposals. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Young of Cookham Lord Young of Cookham Conservative 4:30 pm, 8th February 2021

My Lords, my normal reaction to an invitation from the noble Lord, Lord Russell, to sign an amendment on social reform is to reach for my pen, but on this occasion I confess I hesitated—not of course having heard the compelling and moving speech he has just made. This is because, while a member of the other place, I spent 30 days with the Hampshire Constabulary, and a constant complaint was about the number of forms they had to fill in, regarding it as an unwelcome diversion from the prevention and detection of crime.

Amendment 146 would require the chief officer to provide information, presumably on a form, about domestic abuse crimes where the offender demonstrated hostility or prejudice based on sex. A strong case needs to be made for this, to which I will come in a moment. In addition to the requirement to fill in a form, the amendment raises the question as to how a chief officer might judge whether a crime involving domestic abuse might have been motivated by hostility or prejudice based on sex—given that there are varying motives for domestic abuse, as we have heard during earlier debates on the Bill, and often no witnesses.

To get a better understanding of the complex issues behind domestic abuse and hate crime, I went to the Law Commission document referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Russell, called Hate Crime Laws: A Consultation Paper. This is not light reading, weighing in at 544 pages, with a glossary and a foreword but no executive summary. But it did look, as the noble Lord has just said, at broadening the range of hate crimes to other categories, of which sex was one.

The relevant chapter for this debate is chapter 12, which looks at extending existing protected characteristics to gender or sex. It is 48 pages of closely argued and sympathetic analysis, which ends with a provisional recommendation, followed by a question:

“We provisionally propose that gender and sex should be a protected characteristic for the purposes of hate crime law. Do consultees agree? We invite consultees’ views on whether gender-specific carve-outs for sexual offences, forced marriage, FGM and crimes committed in the domestic abuse context are needed, if gender or sex is protected for the purposes of hate crime law.”

I appreciate that, as the noble Lord has just said, the amendment does not propose extending hate crime to gender or sex. However, the issues raised by the amendment are similar to those in the Law Commission’s document and, as I shall argue, the amendment offers the opportunity to shed light on the provisional conclusions of the Law Commission, and indeed helps to answer their questions.

To summarise the document, the commission identified three relevant criteria before extending hate crime. The first is demonstrable need—evidence that targeting based on prejudice or hostility towards a group is prevalent. The second is additional harm—evidence that that targeting causes additional harm to the victim, members of the targeted group and society more widely. The third is suitability—whether protection of this group fits within the framework of criminal law, is workable in practice, and is an efficient use of resources.

Again, to summarise, the first two boxes were ticked. On demonstrable need, the commission concluded that there is

“overwhelming evidence that women and girls are targeted for certain crimes” because of hostility to their gender. On additional harm, it concluded that hostility causes

“harm to the social value of equality and can prevent women’s equal participation in society” and so causes wider harm to that society.

On suitability, the commission is frankly more cautious. It points to the risk of dividing offences into misogynistic and non-misogynistic, and creating a hierarchy of offences. It also mentions the difficulty of proof. Proof is often difficult enough in domestic abuse cases, but having to prove that the offence was aggravated by prejudice against women could provide an additional hurdle.

The commission also touched on issues relating to resources. Hate crime resources are limited, prosecutions and convictions are down and, as we have heard in earlier debates, support services are under strain. I quote from the Law Commission report:

“In this light, one argument might be that resources for tackling violence against women and girls would be more efficiently spent on increasing access to all survivors, particularly survivors who encounter additional barriers to access such as BAME survivors or migrant survivors.”

This then led the commission to discuss the possibility, if hate crimes were to be extended to gender or sex, of carving out domestic abuse and sexual crimes from gender-based aggravation, as already happens in certain states in America. It conceded that this would lead to a certain incoherence in the law and stated:

“This raises much wider questions as to whether hate crime is the right framework for the criminal justice system to deal with gender-based crimes.”

On balance, the commission proposes that gender should be a protected characteristic, but qualifies this by making it provisional and subject to consultees’ agreement.

Why is this relevant to the amendment, which I support? Because I believe that not going outright to make gender-based crime a hate crime, but suggesting this interim step, helps to answer the questions posed by the commission and provides key information on practicality and suitability. As the noble Lord has just said, the amendment would secure the evidence about the extent, nature and prevalence of hostility towards women and girls, how these interplay with the experience of domestic abuse and the practicality of this proposed extension.

A better understanding of these issues is crucial. As we have heard, 11 out of the 43 police constabularies in England and Wales have made misogyny a hate crime, trialled the policy or are actively considering implementing it and voluntarily filling in the necessary forms—dealing with my initial reservation. The amendment would broaden the base by requiring all police forces to do this and so it would add to our understanding of the nature of violence against women and so how work to end it might be accelerated. If we go down this path, I hope the Minister will do this sensitively and cautiously, taking on board the points in the Law Commission reports. If carried, the amendment would be an important addition to this progressive piece of legislation.

Photo of Baroness Bull Baroness Bull Crossbench

My Lords, I rise to speak in support of this amendment, and I thank the noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool, for his comprehensive introduction. It may be hard for some people to fully comprehend the role that misogyny and sexism play in the lives of women and the extent to which it permeates our every day: from offhand pejorative language that belittles feminine characteristics and female achievements, through lazy gender-based assumptions about preferences, capability and behaviours, to uniquely gendered insults and slurs.

At one end of the spectrum are behaviours and attitudes that might be considered by their perpetrators to be gallant or even protective of the “fairer sex”—what some researchers characterise as “benevolent sexism”. At the other end is the hostile sexism of overtly negative stereotypes and antagonism towards women; the kind of sexism that sees gender equality as attack on masculinity and the kind of sexism that is known to represent a significant danger to women.

We worry, with good reason, about social media platforms creating environments for this kind of misogyny. Indeed, research from the University of Pennsylvania on just one social media platform located more than 2.9 million tweets in one week containing instances of gendered insults. That averages 419,000 sexist slurs per day. That data is from 2019; we can only imagine that today’s figures might dwarf that number.

But perhaps we should worry more about the fact that this online aggression simply mirrors traditional stereotypes and attitudes towards women—a hostility based on sex that women experience everywhere: at school, at work, on public transport, in taxis, on the street and of course at home.

Research from Brazil and Turkey into the connection between sexism and domestic abuse shows a positive correlation between sexism and attitudes that legitimise abuse in intimate relationships. Put simply, men who hold sexist beliefs are more likely to translate them into actions through the use of coercion and force. The researchers make the point that, although benevolent sexism might be thought to promise some kind of protection for women as the perceived weaker sex, in fact this promise rings hollow. It found that benevolent and hostile sexism acted in a carrot-and-stick combination, with protective affection a reward for compliance, and abuse and violence the stick employed should the woman fail to fall into line.

Of course, the impact of sexism and misogyny within the home is doubly worrying. Not only does it have a grave impact on the abused partner; it is also likely to be witnessed and internalised by children, influencing their behaviours and expectations in their adult lives.

The noble Lord, Lord Russell, talked about the lack of knowledge about the experience of victims—the wisdom from their perspectives. This lack of focus is evident in the literature. There is a significant gap in our knowledge about how women experience misogynistic hate crimes. A Swedish study from September 2020 aimed to fill that gap, drawing from a sample of 1,767 female students. It showed that women with experiences of misogynistic hate crimes are more likely to be subjected to sexual harassment and repeat victimisation. They consistently report higher levels of a fear of crime and higher rates of anxiety, depression and stress.

The research supports the thesis that misogynistic hate crime is what is often called a “message crime”. Its negative effect extends far beyond the direct victim, because the offences spread fear and insecurity within entire minority communities and contribute to the marginalisation of particularly vulnerable groups.

As we have heard, this amendment would lead to the gathering of more data about the extent, nature and prevalence of sex-based hostility towards women and girls, and this would improve our understanding of how this intersects with domestic abuse. The very act of collecting this data would likely have benefits in itself.

As the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham, said and as we have heard, 11 out of 43 police constabularies in England and Wales already identify misogyny as a hate crime or are considering doing so. The increased rate of reporting in those areas suggests overall improvements in the ability of officers to identify these crimes but also increased confidence levels among women to come forward and report them. Requiring all police forces to follow their example would allow the capture of data on a national scale, supporting the gathering and analysis of evidence, revealing the patterns and extent of women’s experiences, and, ultimately, enabling the development of strategies that would protect women and girls from being targets of crime on the basis of their sex.

Photo of Baroness Burt of Solihull Baroness Burt of Solihull Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Russell, for his very clear introduction and explanation, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, for her description of misogyny.

As we have heard, the amendment would require guidance to take account of the role that hostility against a particular sex plays in domestic abuse cases. It would also require the police to collect data on the number of relevant hate crimes based on sex and on how many of them are misogyny or misandry related. As the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham, said, the picture is patchy to say the least.

The problem is that currently all but four police forces do not record crimes based on misogyny or misandry, although I totally accept the wise words of the noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool, about how the picture needs to be built up. As the noble Lord, Lord Young, said, another seven forces are thinking about recording such crimes, but there are 43 police forces in total, so we can hardly get a picture of what is happening and of the contribution that these crimes make to domestic abuse in particular. In order to be able to measure and interpret trends in hate crimes, we must have the information; otherwise, how can we know what we are dealing with and how can we build that picture?

So far, I totally support the amendment and agree that recording cases of misogyny can really help the police to build up a picture of abuse. But I just wonder why, in the last line of the amendment, a definition of “sex” has been considered necessary. The terms “sex” and “gender” are interchangeable across English law, so why have the drafters of the amendment seen fit to throw in a definition of “sex”? I have just a twinge of anxiety that the trans community might feel excluded, and this legislation must be inclusive. After all, trans women can be victims of misogyny just as much as any other type of woman, so any definition of sex for the purposes of this clause must be trans inclusive, which is the default position for all our laws. Therefore, although I totally agree that misogyny should be recorded as a hate crime, as that would play a very valuable role, I hope that that anxiety will be assuaged; otherwise, I may not be able to support the amendment.

Photo of Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Green 4:45 pm, 8th February 2021

My Lords, I am absolutely delighted to be a signatory to this long overdue amendment, which I thank the noble Lord, Lord Russell, and the other co-signatories for bringing forward. It relates to a policy that I have advocated for years—that we should make misogyny a hate crime.

Part of the problem is that misogyny and sexism are deeply embedded in our society. The noble Baroness, Lady Bull, talked about a protective kindness from men towards women. Quite honestly, we do not need that. Misogyny and sexism can be covered up by teasing and even flattery, but it is totally inappropriate and it is time that men learned that. We have enshrined our condemnation of racism and homophobia in law, but we are not treating sexism as the same kind of priority and it is time that we did.

According to statistics, 90% of British women experienced street harassment before the age of 17. Street harassment is being shouted at. We are not talking about wolf-whistling; we are talking about men shouting at women, making them embarrassed and perhaps making them feel less free to walk down a street. Eighty-five per cent of women aged 17 to 24 have been subjected to unwanted sexual advances. Can your Lordships imagine that—that 85% of women have been groped by people whom they do not want to be groped by? Therefore, it is time to make misogyny a hate crime.

The amendment is long overdue and I hope that the Minister will say that she accepts it completely. Several noble Lords have talked about Nottinghamshire Police being trailblazers on this. It has seen a 25% increase in the reporting of misogynistic crime and a very high level of satisfaction among the people—mainly women—who have reported those crimes, because finally they have been taken seriously. As noble Lords have also said, only 11 out of 43 police forces in England and Wales have made misogyny a hate crime, have trialled it or are actively considering implementing this.

Part of the problem is that, just as the police are representative of society, there will be police officers who are sexist and misogynistic. This means that they need training. I have in the past mentioned the sort of domestic abuse training that some police forces are already getting. It makes the officers aware of exactly what happens and creates more empathy for the people who are being abused. For me, domestic abuse training is part of what will help to solve this problem that we have of misogyny. I hope that standing up and talking about it here will also help.

It would be a real shame for this amendment not to be accepted on to the statute book, but will the Minister at least promise to open a debate on this issue among police forces? It is in her power to do that. I would be very pleased if she accepted this amendment but, if not, could she take it forward in any way that she can?

Photo of Lord Lucas Lord Lucas Conservative

It will be immensely helpful to have a process of gathering information ahead of the Law Commission report on whether extension of hate crimes to embrace misogyny will work, and how. At present, we do not have good information. This is a really difficult area; I do not think that any of us has trouble with the concept of hate crimes, but the Scottish Parliament is currently undergoing extreme difficulty with the concept of hate speech. Many police forces in the UK are doing some very strange things with “hate incidents”, where these can be recorded just on the say-so of one person and then appear in another person’s DBS check. There are some difficult things happening around hate crimes and hate incidents generally; having good data must, surely, be at the core of reaching good conclusions.

Here, we have a difficulty in that the police have changed their recording of crimes and reports so that they record only the reported gender of a person and not their natal sex, as is the protected characteristic under the Equality Act. Recently, we have seen extraordinary rises in the reported level of sexual abuse by women. Is this real? Is there something happening to women in our country that we really ought to understand, or is this a fiction of the change in the police reporting method? Not having accurate data disables us in understanding what to do.

I very much hope that, if something comes of this—I hope it will—the police will not only record the natal sex but will record the gender of all the people concerned so that we can understand exactly what is happening. It really does not help trans people that the hate they are subject to is subsumed under misogyny if they are trans women. We need to know whether this is happening to them because they are trans. We are trying to gather data and understanding; the better the data we have, the better our response.

I support, but would like to see extended, the definition at the end of this. It is really important that we have clarity and completeness. Let us record sex as per the Equality Act definition because that is, as my noble friend on the Front Bench has confirmed to me on previous occasions, the basis on which the Government are working. Let us also record self-identified gender or whatever other formulation works best—we could perhaps adopt the one from the forthcoming census—so that we have a complete picture of misogyny and trans misogyny and can, when the time comes, craft effective laws about it.

Photo of Baroness Donaghy Baroness Donaghy Chair, EU Services Sub-Committee, Chair, EU Services Sub-Committee

I am very pleased to support the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Russell. Members may have seen recent reports in the media covering the experience of elite female athletes being subject to harassment and intimidation when doing training runs in the street. They cannot go to their athletic tracks to train at the moment because of lockdown. As has been said, this is not about wolf-whistling; it is about violence and harassment, mainly against women. If those athletes were competing in an Olympic stadium, they would be cheered to the rafters for their success, but because they are training on the streets and are anonymous, somehow they are objectified and are easy prey.

During White Ribbon Week, I asked the Minister to accept the two year-old Law Commission’s report recommending that misogyny be made a hate crime. This is now a matter of increasing urgency. The police forces that have been adopting policies to record gender hate crimes are to be congratulated, but this needs to be adopted generally. Superintendent Andy Bennett of Avon and Somerset Police said:

“We know women are less likely to report hate crime committed by strangers in public, which could be because discrimination is normalised for many women.”

As the noble Lord, Lord Russell, said, Nottinghamshire Police was the first force in England and Wales to start recording hate crimes against women and girls. Sue Fish, the former chief constable of Nottinghamshire Police, said:

“Some of the feedback we had was that women, for the first time, described themselves as ‘walking taller’ and with their ‘heads held high’.”

According to the White Ribbon Campaign, one in five British men thinks that feminism has gone “too far”. Online misogyny can also be a gateway to wider divisions in society. A HOPE not hate report shows that some young men who interact with men’s rights activists online are on the first step to more extreme racist or far-right groups and regard more rights for anyone—such as people of colour, the LGBT community and people with disabilities—as a threat to their status. The chief executive of HOPE not hate supports this amendment. He states that misogyny is a recruiting tool for hate groups and a means to radicalise, especially among the very young. These online groups radicalise young men who go on to commit acts of aggression designed to intimidate, humiliate and control women.

Having better-quality information throughout all police forces is not just another paper exercise. It helps to increase understanding of the causes and consequences of violence against women and girls, and it gives women more confidence that their issue will be taken seriously. It may even go on to protect more women from violence and intimidation. I hope that the Minister will accept this amendment.

Photo of Lord Paddick Lord Paddick Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

My Lords, this afternoon, many noble Lords have described misogyny outside the scenario of domestic abuse—such as elite athletes training in the street, as the noble Baroness, Lady Donaghy, just said. I hope to explain that, while I agree that the recording of misogyny as a hate crime is a good thing, it may confuse things when it comes to domestic abuse.

As has been explained, Clause 70 requires the Secretary of State to

“issue guidance to chief officers of police about the disclosure of police information by police forces for the purposes of preventing domestic abuse.”

This amendment is about including in that guidance that the police should record any crimes where the offender demonstrated hostility or prejudice based on sex, or where it is perceived that the crime was motivated by hostility or prejudice towards persons who are of a particular sex. This, in effect, would require police officers to record misogyny as a hate crime, although as it is worded in gender-neutral terms it would also require them to record misandry as a hate crime. I am confused about why misandry would be a hate crime, but we will move on. It then tries to bring this within the scope of Clause 70, which is about preventing domestic abuse, by mentioning taking account of evidence about the relationship between domestic abuse and misogyny and recording misogynistic crimes that, in the opinion of the police, have also involved domestic abuse.

As my noble friend Lady Burt said, the amendment defines “sex” as having the same meaning as in Section 11 of the Equality Act 2010.

The noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool, referred to a tragic case of repeat domestic abuse that resulted in murder. The failure to identify repeat domestic abuse perpetrators, as we will hear on a later group, is believed to be the result of a failure to include serial domestic abuse perpetrators in multiagency public protection arrangements, not a result of failing to record misogyny as a hate crime.

This amendment presents a series of challenges. It appears to extend the definition of hate crime beyond what currently exists. The CPS describe a hate crime as when someone is hostile to another person because of their disability, nationality, race, religion, sexual orientation or transgender identity. Section 28 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, as amended, which deals with hate crime offences, talks about the offender demonstrating hostility or being motivated by hostility. It makes no mention, as this amendment does, of demonstrating prejudice. I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool, can explain how prejudice can be demonstrated in a way that does not involve hostility. This amendment also makes no change to the penalty for an offence motivated by misogyny in the way that existing hate crimes create aggravated offences. As such, the amendment simply requires the police to differentiate and record crimes motivated by misogyny to plug a gap in the intelligence picture of offender behaviour.

Misogyny has been described as rewarding women who uphold the status quo but punishing those who reject the subordinate status of women in a patriarchal, male-dominated society; the noble Baronesses, Lady Bull and Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, alluded to that. Misogynists effectively differentiate between “good women” who accept a subordinate role to men, who they are loving towards and admiring of, and “bad women” who challenge the status quo or otherwise fail to comply with misogynists’ distorted expectations of how women should look or behave. I wonder whether that reminds noble Lords of any former Presidents.

In my personal and professional experience, this failure to accept domination—to accept a subordinate role—is the essence of domestic abuse, but it is equally true whatever the sex of the perpetrator or the victim. My abusive male partner was loving towards me when I complied, and violent when I stood up for myself. This is typical of a misogynist’s behaviour towards a woman. In my personal experience of domestic abuse, it was motivated by neither misogyny nor misandry but was typical of coercive and controlling behaviour. There is a real danger of confusing misogyny with other forms of domestic abuse that are not motivated by hatred of women. I welcome the cautious approach recommended by the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham.

However, there is merit in collecting intelligence to identify patterns of criminal behaviour, by individuals or within communities, or within society as a whole. That is why intelligence is already kept and shared about those who perpetrate domestic abuse. It would therefore be helpful were the police to collect information on crimes that were likely to be motivated by misogyny outside the domestic abuse arena but beyond the scope of the Bill. Intelligence to protect victims from serial perpetrators of domestic abuse is already collected, although imperfectly, as we will hear on a later group.

What would the purpose of this amendment be? As the noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool, said, it would be to identify assailants committing crimes motivated by hostility towards women, or that society or a section of society is demonstrating hostility by committing crimes against women. This is something the police, politicians and wider society need to be aware of. I have no problem with the Home Office issuing instructions to the police service requiring it to record such intelligence, but I am not sure that this needs to be in primary legislation, and I have doubts, for the reasons I have explained, that it needs to be in this primary legislation.

Again, on a later group we will debate whether, as the noble Lord, Lord Russell, claimed, domestic abuse is a gendered environment. There is also a danger of confusing the recording of domestic abuse. Currently domestic abuse is not recorded as racial domestic abuse, homophobic domestic abuse, or any other type of intersectionality. I therefore ask why domestic abuse should be characterised as misogynistic domestic abuse. To clarify, I say that my understanding is that only four police forces currently record misogyny as a hate crime, but they also record misandry as a hate crime, and that seven other police forces are piloting or considering doing so.

Finally, I am concerned that we do not get embroiled in the debates between those with entrenched views in relation to trans women. In spite of my noble friend Lady Burt’s concerns, and despite what the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, said, we clearly do not need to go there in relation to this amendment. Existing hate crime legislation is quite clear, as is this amendment, that a relevant crime means a reported crime in which the victim or any other person perceived the alleged offender to demonstrate hostility or prejudice based on sex, or to be motivated by it. In other words, if the victim or anyone else believes it is misogyny, it should be recorded as such. Furthermore, Section 28 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 talks about,

“hostility based on the victim’s membership (or presumed membership) of a racial group”, where “presumed” means presumed by the offender. If the offender presumed the victim to be a woman, it is, and should be, recorded as misogyny.

We support misogyny being recorded by the police to fill a gap in the intelligence picture outside the domestic abuse setting, but we are not convinced that it should be an amendment to this Bill.

Photo of Lord Kennedy of Southwark Lord Kennedy of Southwark Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow Spokesperson (Housing) 5:00 pm, 8th February 2021

My Lords, I fully support Amendment 146, moved by the noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool. The noble Lord set out in detail the issue of violence against women; he seeks in his amendment to make effective use of data to secure evidence, in order to help our understanding of the offence and our ability to prevent it. That is the whole point of data; the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, made reference to that. By collecting data we can understand the issue, and that can then help us to find solutions. This is why data is so important to everything we do and what is so good about the amendment.

The amendment would require the Secretary of State to publish guidance that took account of evidence about the relationship between domestic abuse and other offences involving hostility based on sex. It would require all chief police officers to collect and provide data on relevant crimes reported to police forces which they believe have also involved domestic abuse. Sadly, there are some men around who hate women for no other reason than that they are a woman. I do not know what the issue is; perhaps they feel that the woman somehow threatens their identity as a man—that she might be smarter than them or know a bit more about something. I do not know what it is, but there are men who absolutely hate women. We have to ensure we understand that more so that we can provide solutions. It is horrific when you think about it, but it is the case.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bull, made reference to social media, which has shone a light on this. We think of the abuse received by our colleagues in the other place—on all sides of the House—if they dare to suggest anything that some people do not like. They have been threatened with all sorts of acts of violence, called names and generally abused. Some really offensive and disgusting remarks have been made about them, which are absolutely appalling and should be highlighted, but those are just the tip of the iceberg. Social media has allowed this to be brought into the sunlight and in that sense it is good, although I am sure we will come back to social media companies and their responsibilities another time. It is a dreadful situation.

As the noble Lord, Lord Russell, said, it is important to note that nothing in this amendment makes anything an offence that is not already an offence. It is merely about collecting information, and understanding the issue in order to help us understand the problem. Many noble Lords have heaped praise on Nottinghamshire Police for their work. I used to work in Nottinghamshire many years ago so I have dealt with the police there on different matters. They are an excellent police force. I am looking forward to my honourable friend Vernon Coaker coming to join the House next month. In his roles as a teacher, a councillor and a Member of Parliament in the other place for 23 years, he had lots to do with Nottinghamshire Police; I am sure that we will benefit from his experience.

I agree with all the contributions of noble Lords who have spoken—the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham, the noble Baronesses, Lady Bull, Lady Burt of Solihull, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, and others. In particular, my noble friend Lady Donaghy talked about the risk of young men caught in this horrible tide of misogyny who are being dragged into other dreadful crimes. We should be very worried about that as well—about people who get dragged into other dangerous, illegal and criminal activity. We need to understand that.

I am very lucky in that my mum, my sister and my wife are all much smarter than me; I have been lucky to have them in my life to help me out. When I came into this House, my two sponsors were my two previous bosses in the Labour Party, both women—Baroness Gould and my noble friend Lady McDonagh. Lots of women in my life have helped me out on a whole range of things, and I am very grateful for that. This is a very important amendment. I look forward to the Minister’s response.

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department 5:15 pm, 8th February 2021

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for their contributions to this debate, which has been excellent. I can categorically attest to the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, is not a misogynist. The noble Baroness, Lady Bull, talked about how the behaviour of parents has almost a direct correlation with how their children might behave when they grow up. The noble Baroness, Lady Burt, talked about the trans community; the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, might have looked at my notes because the words I have written in response to her remarks are almost identical to what he said: that hate crime laws in England and Wales protect identity characteristics such as race, religion or sexual orientation, or groups such as trans or disabled people.

I thank noble Lords for all their comments, including the very thoughtful comments of my noble friend Lord Young of Cookham. The noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, talked about the abuse of parliamentarians—it is horrific to see the comments that people have made—much of which is misogynistic. The opening gambit of the noble Lord, Lord Russell, was the tragic case of Kellie Sutton, which shows two things, one mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. It shows the failure to include domestic abuse in the MAPPA arrangements and the need for more effective use of Clare’s Law; the Bill remedies that, as it puts the guidance on a statutory footing. Noble Lords have talked about police forces that record misogyny. The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, rightly pointed out that those which record misogyny also record misandry.

I will be quite clear about the Government’s position on hate crime. All crimes that are motivated by hatred are totally unacceptable and have no place in this society. That is why, in 2018, as part of our updating of the Government’s hate crime action plan, we asked the Law Commission to undertake a review of current hate crime legislation, including considering whether other protected characteristics such as sex, gender and age should be included. We asked it to review both the adequacy and the parity of protection offered by the law relating to hate crime and to make recommendations for reform. This review began in 2019; over the course of that year and last, the Law Commission tried to meet as many people as possible who had an interest in this area of law, organising events across England and Wales to gather views and, of course, evidence, which the noble Lord so often talks about.

The noble Lords, Lord Paddick, Lord Kennedy and Lord Lucas, stressed the importance of data in our considerations. The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, asked about opening a debate with the police; I am sure that, following the Law Commission’s findings, such a debate will be opened up. However, we have specifically asked the commission to consider the current range of offences, aggravating factors and sentencing, and to make recommendations on the most appropriate models to ensure that the criminal law provides consistent and effective protection from conduct motivated by hatred towards protected groups or characteristics.

The review also took account of the existing range of protected characteristics, identifying any gaps in the scope of protection currently offered under the law and making recommendations to promote a consistent approach. The consultation to support the review closed on Christmas Eve of last year. That consultation focused on whether sex or gender should be added to hate crime laws, noting that misogyny by itself might introduce inconsistency to hate crime laws—as the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, also pointed out.

We will respond to the review when it is completed. Given the range and depth of the work undertaken by the Law Commission, we do not think it would be appropriate to prejudice the outcome of its work, including by issuing guidance or requiring the collection of statistics along the lines proposed by the amendment. As I have said, the noble Lord rightly wants to see evidence-based policy. The work of the Law Commission will add significantly to that evidence base. I hope the noble Lord will agree that we should allow it to complete that work rather than pre-empting it. We will consider what changes need to be made once we have had the opportunity to fully consider the Law Commission’s final recommendations. On the basis of these comments, I hope that the noble Lord will be happy to withdraw his amendment.

Photo of Lord Russell of Liverpool Lord Russell of Liverpool Deputy Chairman of Committees

My Lords, I thank everybody who took part in this wide-ranging debate. I thought it was appropriate for it to be introduced by a member of the weaker sex, but I thank everybody of whatever sex for their contributions. I thank my colleague in the other place, Stella Creasy. She and I had the pleasure of spending quite a bit of time together at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, where I got to know her. She has been a doughty champion of trying to get misogyny recognised as a rather pervasive element in modern society and I applaud her for her efforts, which have been supported across the Chamber in another place.

The noble Lord, Lord Young—with his usual erudition and from his commanding height—laid out just how extensive the Law Commission’s interim report is. I, too, waded through 40-odd pages, and I confess that I did not look at about 500 footnotes in detail, but it is very impressive and goes very deep. What comes out of it very clearly is that the case for the prosecution is proven: misogyny is something that actually exists, is tangible and has a very unpleasant effect on a lot of people. However, finding out that it is bad is the easy bit; the difficult bit, which is what the Law Commission is trying to do now, is translating that knowledge—that truth—into legislation in a form that will have a materially beneficial effect on the very large number of victims of misogyny. That is the difficult piece to try to get right. Frankly, the more data that we have to help us try to understand how to do that effectively, the better.

My noble friend Lady Bull laid out some of the international context. This is not something that takes place only in our disunited kingdom, it is an international syndrome and a shameful one. The existence of gender-based hostility is a fact of life and it has probably always been with us from Neolithic times. The noble Baroness, Lady Burt, quite rightly made the point that we must have the right information. I am to some extent agnostic on the technical issues of sex versus gender and all the rest of it. That is not a battle that I am going to fight. I do not feel qualified to do so, but I am quite sure that the Law Commission will look at that in detail as it is looking at all the other elements.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, talked about the pervasiveness of misogyny, based in part, I suspect, on her own experience and that of others that she has seen. It is shameful. She also made an extremely good point about the value of really good police domestic abuse training. I do not know to what extent there is a template for best practice and what good really looks like. I suspect that, as ever, some police forces are doing it infinitely better than others. Can the Minister tell us how much knowledge the Home Office has of where best practice is in existence or being evolved and, if so, what is it doing, or what does it aspire to do, to try to make sure that that is applied everywhere, not just in those police forces that are ahead of the game?

The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, talked about the importance of enhanced information, but he rightly made the point, as a lawyer, that hate crime is a difficult and very sensitive area, and data really will be king. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Donaghy, I saw the reports about the way in which female athletes have been tormented and abused because they cannot go to the normal stadia and places to exercise. It is absolutely deplorable that one should be trying to do what one loves and has a passion for—indeed, what one may be representing one’s country for—and is subject to abuse on the street. I cannot even imagine what that would be like. I hope that if I witnessed someone doing something like that, I would give them a piece of my mind—not that they would probably take much notice.

The noble Baroness, Lady Donaghy, also pointed out that misogyny is a recruiting tool for hate groups. In doing research for this debate, I went down one particular rabbit hole that I found on the internet: a very bizarre male forum in which feminism is regarded as the root of many of modern society’s ills and as a conspiracy to belittle men and reduce their role. It was eye-closing, rather than eye-opening, to try to read it, but it exists and we cannot ignore it. We have to try to do something about it.

The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, quite rightly, with his extensive experience, laid out some of the heffalump traps that exist legally and in the way in which the police might try to apply this. He knows far more about it than I do, but I would defer to the Law Commission to try to work its way through some of the complexities that he outlined. I probably agree that they do not necessarily need to be in primary legislation; that is not the object of this probing amendment.

The noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, again, referred to the importance of data and the role of social media. Like him, I greatly look forward to the arrival of our new colleague: his friend and mine, Vernon Coaker. When he arrives, he will be a sterling addition to your Lordships’ House. I also—since I am married to one—agree with the noble Lord on the very important role of powerful women.

The Minister quite rightly mentioned the pervasive influence of the home that one is fortunate or unfortunate enough to grow up in, and how that influences one’s views. We both have shared history in the importance of timely, accurate and informative data. I think we all agree that although we know this is here, we still do not really understand its full complexity, how to record it accurately or how to respond to it. I hope that the Law Commission will come up with some answers, but the pandemic has acted like a pressure cooker on an awful lot of what is going on. Many women and children are suffering unspeakable oppression at the moment and I am very conscious that, while it is neat and tidy to say that we will wait for the Law Commission findings to come out, there is a feeling among most of us who have spoken that it would be good to do as much as we can in the interim to acknowledge that this is a live and shameful issue, rather than just sit on our hands hoping that the Law Commission will pull a rabbit out of the hat.

On that basis, I thank everybody who has taken part. I thank the Minister for listening so politely and answering as I expected she might, but I hope that she and her colleagues will consider whether more could be done, given the circumstances that so many of these women and children are in, to try to send some message to police forces about the benefits that other police forces which have trialled this are having from it, and to encourage them to look at it seriously. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 146 withdrawn.

Clause 70 agreed.

Photo of Baroness Henig Baroness Henig Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

We now come to the group beginning with Amendment 146A. I remind noble Lords that anyone wishing to speak after the Minister should email the clerk during the debate. Anyone wishing to press this or anything else in this group to a Division must make that clear in the debate.

Clause 71: Homelessness: victims of domestic abuse