The murder of Gracie Spinks has had a massive impact on the residents of Chesterfield and got us all thinking about the dangers of violence against women. I have quite simply never been at a funeral as large as Gracie’s as hundreds of mourners turned out on the streets of Old Whittington. There has been an outpouring of grief and anger for a young life taken so senselessly. Gracie’s tragic death has raised (not for the first time) serious questions about the police and our courts response to the stalking and harassment of women, as well as broader questions for our society on the epidemic of violence against women and girls.
The number of women homicide victims is at its highest level in fifteen years, with a woman murdered every three days. Rape prosecutions and convictions are at a record low, and many women and girls face harassment and abuse every day, leaving too many feeling unsafe on our streets.
In March of this year, my parliamentary colleague, Jess Philips MP, read out the name of every woman murdered at the hands of a man last year. There were 118 names read out and it took over 6 minutes. It was a harrowing moment in Parliament, next year she will read Gracie’s name on her list, it really is too much!
The government’s failure to enforce existing laws and its dismissal of Labour’s calls for new legislation to protect women and girls is letting violent criminals off the hook. I am also supporting Gracie’s Law, which is part of a petition set up by Jackie Barnett-Wheatcroft, which is calling for funding to help protect people who report stalking to police and to criminal investigations. I am also calling for violence against women and girls to be classed as a ‘serious crime’ under The Serious Violence Duty. The government has refused to legislate for this and is failing to tackle the violence and harassment towards women and girls.
I met with the Shadow Home Secretary, Nick Thomas-Symonds MP last week to discuss the horrific murder of Gracie Spinks and what is needed to try and prevent this from ever happening again.
Labour are proposing to increase the minimum sentences for rapists and stalkers, create a new street harassment law, introduce a Whole Life Tariff for anyone found guilty of the abduction and sexual assault and murder of a person and to make misogyny a hate crime. I have also asked Nick to investigate whether a Gracie’s law amendment could be proposed during the passage of the Police and Crime Bill which is currently passing through parliament.
Labour also published its Survivors’ Support Plan earlier this year, which would ensure that cases are heard as quickly as possible and provide proper support to survivors. When cases are delayed, survivors often find that they just need closure and so become either too afraid or too traumatised to testify. Court delays end up letting stalkers off the hook.