by Corinthia Ward, Birmingham North Socialist Party
- For democratic control of the police
- Fight to end sexism, inequality and capitalism
The horrific and brutal details surrounding the abduction, rape and murder of Sarah Everard were made known to the public on 29 September as the sentencing against her murderer, Met police officer Wayne Couzens, began. Couzens abused his power as a police officer to falsely arrest Sarah Everard as she walked home, citing she had broken Covid restrictions. The premeditated murder has once again brought into question women’s safety and the accountability of the police.
The fact that Sarah was tricked by a police officer under the guise of the law has made many women ask: how can we be safe when the very people we are told will protect us can do this? In response, the Met police has released ‘advice’ to women suggesting that if they find themselves in a similar position to Sarah, then they should do things such as ‘dial 999’ and ‘wave down a bus’. This is rich considering directly after Sarah’s murder, the Tory government was suggesting using undercover officers in nightclubs and other places to help ‘protect’ women – now women have been advised how to escape them!
Over decades the Met has enabled undercover police officers to trick women into sexual relationships in order to spy on left-wing groups. On the same day as Couzens’ life sentencing for Sarah’s murder, activist Kate Wilson, who was deceived by an undercover police officer, won a tribunal against the Met police for its abuse of her human rights.
While the Tories talk about how murders like Sarah’s should never happen again, their actions speak otherwise. They push through legislation such as the Spycops bill which would give police more power, and help protect officers from charges of rape. This is the same bill that in October 2020 Keir Starmer did not oppose, but rather told Labour MPs to abstain on.
Additionally, cuts to public services have had a massive effect on the safety of women. Street lighting, which many councils – both blue and red – have dimmed to cut costs, is just one example of how women’s safety has been impacted in the name of austerity. These cuts should be reversed, and the services fully funded to ensure the safety of all women.
The misogyny and sexism in the police does not stop at Couzens or a few bad apples. Another Met police officer from Couzens’ unit was charged with rape, and a WhatsApp group where police officers shared sexist and pornographic material is being investigated. 26 police colleagues of Couzens have committed sex crimes since 2016, and more than 750 Met police employees have faced sexual misconduct investigations since 2010!
Women and the working class should no longer accept the lack of accountability of the police, instead we should demand the democratic community and trade union control and oversight of policing as well as the criminal justice system. There should be independent workers’ and community inquiries into police misconduct. Couzens’ crimes did not occur out of the blue, so why were the warning flags ignored?
The culture in the police reflects that of society as a whole. The levels of harassment, violence and abuse that women face are systemic. Women should not be told to change their behaviour, but society should be fundamentally changed to end the inequalities embedded in capitalism which perpetuate sexism and abuse.
See also ‘Violence against women – we will not be silenced’ at socialistparty.org.uk
- Democratic community and trade union control of the police and criminal justice system
- Fully fund services and support for all women affected by domestic violence, rape and abuse, including refuges and permanent, affordable social housing
- Services must be specialised, publicly funded and democratically controlled by service workers and users, and open to all women
- Safe, affordable, well-staffed public transport and adequate street lighting
- Build a united struggle for zero tolerance of sexism and sexual harassment in workplaces, schools, colleges and universities
- Fight for a socialist alternative to the sexism, inequality and crisis of capitalism