Home Secretary backs '888' phone number to keep women safe at night

9 October 2021, 07:36 | Updated: 9 October 2021, 22:26

The Home Secretary has said she supports the plans for a 888 phone line
The Home Secretary has said she supports the plans for a 888 phone line. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

The Home Secretary has given her backing to a phone service aimed at protecting women as they walk home, following the outcry caused by the murder of Sarah Everard.

A spokeswoman said the Home Office had received a letter from BT chief executive Philip Jansen proposing the emergency number be used to allow the vulnerable to have their journeys tracked and an alert triggered if they do not reach home in time.

"We have received the letter and will respond in due course," the spokeswoman said.

"As set out in our strategy earlier this year, we need a whole of society approach to tackling Violence against Women and Girls and welcome joint working between the private sector and Government."

Priti Patel was quoted as saying: "This new phone line is exactly the kind of innovative scheme which would be good to get going as soon as we can. I'm now looking at it with my team and liaising with BT."

The telecommunications provider has run the 999 emergency number for 84 years.

The new "walk me home" service could be in operation by Christmas, potentially with the number 888 and the ability to summon police.

Read more: Priti Patel announces inquiry into murder of Sarah Everard

Read more: Thousands sign petition for Night Tube to reopen to keep women safe after Everard murder

Mr Jansen said the idea came because he was filled with "outrage and disgust" after the murders of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa.

He said the advantages of an app with "similar GPS technology to Uber and Google Maps" would include better information for emergency services and integration with smart city technology such as CCTV networks.

The proposals will likely be good news for some people, but others have hit out at the Government for failing to tackle the underlying problems.

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said on Twitter: "Here's a radical idea for you Priti - instead of tracking women's movements as we go about our lives, how about the Government actually tackles male violence instead?

"Only 1% of reported rapes result in a charge. That's the problem, not us walking home."

Samantha Billingham, from the Survivors of Domestic Abuse support group, tweeted: "Women could use the app to summon Police if they felt threatened. After the murder of Sarah Everard?

"Stop putting a plaster over things @pritipatel that need a bandage wrapped around to work and keep in place. Tackle the issue in hand!"

Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens used his police issue handcuffs and warrant card to stage a fake arrest so he could kidnap 33-year-old Ms Everard before he raped and murdered her.

Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick on Friday announced Baroness Casey of Blackstock will lead the review of culture and standards at the Metropolitan Police in the wake of the murder.

Dame Cressida said it was an "important step in our journey to rebuild public trust" which would scrutinise the force's vetting, recruitment, leadership, training and "all manner of processes to see how they reinforce the best possible standards".

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