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Progress or political virtue signalling as Met fail to regain trust from London women?

Parliament are discussing violence against women and girls more than ever, yet trust in the Met Police seems to be at an all-time low.

Sarah Everard’s murder on 3rd March 2021 by a serving Metropolitan Police officer saw a sense of fear for women ripple across the nation.

The arrest of four women for breaking Covid-restrictions at a Clapham Common vigil for the 33-year-old by the same police force saw further conflict which has subsequently led to The Met paying thousands in damages.

New data shows that the number of times Parliament has mentioned the phrase violence against women and girls (VAWG) has quadrupled since the murder of Sarah yet according to the charity Refuge, trust in the Met seems to be at an all time low. 

Policy and Public Affairs Officer at Refuge, Amy Bowdrey said: “It’s really, really shocking, charges for VAWG offences are just so low and for us that does not go far enough.

“We know there is a misogynistic boys club in policing and words aren’t meeting action.

“With police officers being one of the first lines of defence in domestic violence, it is just essential that police get their response right.”

The House of Lords saw the greatest increase, with VAWG being mentioned 200 times between Everard’s murder and 22nd May of this year. 

In comparison, the three years before only saw the phrase mentioned 50 times. 

Whilst the House of Commons saw a 275% increase from 80 mentions to 300 after this modern turning-point. 

The government seems to recognise the significant need for strategy: the Baroness Casey review published its final findings in March of last year, suggesting there is a systematic and misogynistic failure within the police.

The Angiolini Inquiry was established to investigate how a serving police officer was capable of kidnap, rape and murder.

The inquiry published the list of issues for part two this week to include: “misconduct and misogyny in the police service and on the police response to violence against women and girls.” 

Despite the recognition and focus on VAWG in Parliament, a freedom of information request has revealed that there are 1798 allegations of VAWG to Met officers, referring to a number of categories including violence.

When asked whether this number reflects allegations or completed investigations, a spokesperson from the Met said: ‘Every allegation is recorded on the system and looked into.  

‘Once an investigation has been completed it is finalised with a result.

The VAWG flag was only introduced in March 2022 with this figure covering the time frame to March of this year and recorded cases relating to serving, retired and resigned officers. 

There is a clear distinction between parliamentary policy, procedure and implementing permanent progress. 

With the BBC documentary being released a few months ago, three years on from Everard’s kidnapping, there are still many unanswered questions from all corners of England.

A survey of more than 8,000 people across England was published last month looking to fill the gap. 

Political scientist, Steven Pickering said: “We wanted to see what sort of factors affect people’s trust in key institutions and the police is one of the most important of these.”

Over a 15 month period, this study found that women are more trusting than men overall, however this was not true for London. 

Answering via a scale of one to seven, the participants revealed how much they trust the police with the higher the score equating to greater faith. 

Whilst women outside of London averaged a response of 4.1, those in London found a lesser ground at 3.7. 

To add to this, there has also been a significant shift in reports to The Met. 

When comparing the most recent data to the year that Everard was murdered, sexual offences have risen by nearly 30%. 

According to data from The Met, there was a significant increase of 26.12% of offences being reported between the months of September to January.

The rise in reports correlates to the month when Sarah Everard was murdered, from 1,417 in February to 2,166 in March of the same year.

Monthly offence data is yet to drop back down to the level before March 2021. 

SWLondoner spoke to Shivika Singh, 23, working in the creative industries in Cardiff about her experience of the police force in London, where she travels regularly for work. 

She claims that after being robbed in Victoria Court Station she phoned the police and was dismissed, leaving her alone in the early hours of the morning shaken up.

Shivika said got back in touch to request her statement be taken, which it never was, and for the CCTV to be investigated, which at this point had been deleted due to the delay. 

Shivika said: “The incident led to me shaking. It could have turned out differently.

“I definitely think differently now, I no longer go out on my own when it is dark or travel late at night.

“It should not be this way, you hear so much about women going out at night time and then never coming home, of corruption in the police, it’s frightening.

“Had the police response been different, I would not feel this way.”

It seems Shivika is not alone, with Refuge launching a campaign to ensure women are no longer left with an inconsistent approach from the police.

When asked to respond to these concerns a Metropolitan Police Service spokesperson said:  “We are determined to earn back the trust of women and girls whose confidence in policing has been shaken by events of recent years. 

“Through our Violence Against Women and Girls Action Plan we are transforming how we protect women and girls including seeing more predators brought to justice, more victims protected from harm and safer spaces for women and girls to enjoy.

“We are creating bigger teams to reduce caseloads of officers, provide a better service to victims and survivors and improving training.”

With a general election being called for only a few months time and Sadiq Khan recently retaining his mayoral position, the future of violence against women and girls seems to be at a crossroads for political taking, but what progress will be made in a year from now?

Featured Image Credit: Tim Dennell via Flickr under CC BY-NC 2.0 licence

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