Policing and civil liberties – keeping women safe
Conference has grave concerns about the unacceptable and heavy-handed policing of the Sarah Everard vigil held on Clapham Common on 13th March, its impact on confidence in the police given underlying concerns about institutional sexism, and message this conveyed about society’s response issues of gender violence, women’s safety, and the right to express public grief. Conference notes:
A. That the vigil organised was a peaceful, appropriate and legally permissible gathering, but notwithstanding this the Metropolitan police sought cancellation of the event and then proceeded to use force against women who were exercising their rights, and to attempt to forcibly disperse the event.
B. That in the aftermath of the shocking murder of Sarah Everard, the police had a responsibility to demonstrate acute sensitivity to the feelings of hurt, grief, and the concerns women have about their safety
C. There are many examples of “everyday sexism” within the police, indicating this is a broader institutional problem
D. That violence and harassment against women going about their ordinary business has been normalised and accepted as part of everyday life; Government are currently consulting for their next Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy, but the strategy must recognise that this is unacceptable.
E. That Government, whilst of course having a duty to maintain public health measures, have been increasingly eroding many of our fundamental rights and civil liberties
Conference reaffirms the Liberal Democrat commitment achieving the highest level of trust between police and the community, the elimination of violence and harassment against women, and upholding the right to peaceful assembly and protest. The principle of policing by consent is an absolute requirement for the rule of law to prevail, that women and confident that the justice system is on their side.
Conference calls for
- A full independent inquiry into the police response to the Clapham Common vigil (in addition resignation of the Commissioner)
- Withdrawal of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill 2021, which seeks to protect police officers, clamp down on public protests, and impose longer custodial sentences; the Home Secretary should now consider her position.
- A Commission on the future of policing, addressing issues of institutional sexism should be written into its terms of reference.
- That measures to be considered in government’s next Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy should be progressed on an all party basis.
- Liberal Democrats, re-affirming our stance on civil liberties, to lead resistance the steady erosion of human rights and the legal and democratic accountability of public bodies and executive powers, if not kept in check, a police state by stealth will prevail.