Misogyny will not be treated as a hate crime because it would overburden the police rather than let them focus on “very real crimes”, Boris Johnson has said.
Johnson said tackling domestic violence and rape is his “number one issue” in policing following the deaths of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa – and the way that way police and the criminal justice system handle crimes of violence against women currently was “just not working”.
He added the “anger over Sarah Everard’s murder is a symptom” of a “wider frustration that people feel”.
Asked if he believed misogyny should be a hate crime, Johnson told BBC Breakfast: “I think that what we should do is prosecute people for the crimes we have on the statute book.
“That is what I am focused on. To be perfectly honest, if you widen the scope of what you ask the police to do, you will just increase the problem.
“What you need to do is get the police to focus on the very real crimes, the very real feeling of injustice and betrayal that many people feel.”
Johnson said change can happen by having more female police officers and seeing the existing ones “progress up the ranks and attain senior positions”.
‘Victims are an afterthought’
But Shadow Justice Secretary David Lammy accused the Tories of “[cutting] the justice system to the bone”.
“Women don’t have confidence in our justice system because our PM is treating victims of violence and sexual offences as an afterthought,” he said.
Several police forces, including Nottinghamshire, North Yorkshire, Avon and Somerset, have adopted misogyny or gender as a form of hate crime for recording purposes but dozens of forces have not yet done so.
Associate Professor Loretta Trickett, of Nottingham Law School, co-authored a report which analysed levels of misogyny and hate crime two years after the policy was brought in by Nottinghamshire Police.
She said: “Boris Johnson’s comments display an unwillingness to listen to women’s experiences and to recognise that crimes against women are driven by misogyny.
“Indeed, there is a key difference between men who abuse women and men that do not and that is the misogynistic attitudes of the former.
“By having misogyny as a hate crime, you recognise that crimes against women are informed by hostility towards women as a social group and that they are experienced by women as hostile acts.”
She added: “The fact that our prime minister does not see the relevance of misogyny to violence against women and girls is deeply troubling.”
Johnson admitted on Tuesday that he is “totally fed up” with low levels of prosecution in rape cases but admitted it will be “incredibly tough” to hit the government’s target to reverse the crisis.
On Monday he was unable to say whether he could look a rape victim in the eyes and tell them there is a high chance she will see justice, but he declined to apologise for the situation.
He also denied that cuts during the years of austerity were to blame for plunging prosecution and conviction rates.
The government announced a target of 2024 to return the number of suspects charged and the amount of cases reaching court to 2016 levels, when the decline in prosecutions began.
But Johnson told Sky News: “I will do everything I can to deliver that. It’s going to be incredibly tough, partly because of the evidential problem….
“We’ll do everything that we can, we’re throwing everything at it.
“Things are actually starting to improve, and you are seeing some signs of acceleration… and I want to see much, much more.”
He denied that cuts to the Crown Prosecution Service were to blame and insisted the problem “is not just a question of money”.
‘Enshrine misogyny as a hate crime’
The chairman of the Commons Justice Committee, Tory MP Sir Bob Neill, said last week that the government should consider making misogyny a hate crime in the same way that racism was following the Macpherson Inquiry into the killing of Stephen Lawrence.
In July, Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobhouse told the House of Commons that the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill should “enshrine misogyny as a hate crime” during a debate on the prospective legislation.
The Bill, which contains a wide-ranging raft of measures aimed at overhauling the criminal justice system, is currently making its way through the House of Lords.
Wayne Couzens, 48, was handed a whole life order last week for falsely arresting Everard, raping and murdering her.
Couzens strangled the 33-year-old marketing executive with his police belt and burned her body in a refrigerator in an area of woodland he owned, before dumping the remains in a nearby pond.
Just days after the tragedy, a senior Metropolitan Police officer refused to apologise for the aggressive actions of officers at a vigil for Everard at Clapham Common. Deputy Commissioner Sir Stephen House said his officers were “doing their duty as they saw it” to enforce legislation at the event.