Lords vote to make misogyny a hate crime as government suffers string of defeats

18 January 2022, 09:18 | Updated: 18 January 2022, 10:14

Peers debated the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill on Monday night
Peers debated the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill on Monday night. Picture: Alamy

By Patrick Grafton-Green

The House of Lords has voted to make misogyny a hate crime in England and Wales as the Government suffered a string of defeats over its plans to crack down on protests.

It came during a debate on the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill on Monday night, with peers voting against a series of controversial measures.

An amendment to the bill, put forward by Conservative peer and former victims' commissioner Baroness Newlove, would give the courts the power to treat misogyny as an aggravating factor in any crime and increase sentences accordingly.

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It was backed by 242 votes to 185, a majority of 57.

Labour has long been demanding that ministers make misogyny a hate crime as part of the bill, including increasing sentences for stalkers and rapists.

Then shadow justice secretary David Lammy said last year: "The Government should work with Labour to tackle the crisis of violence against women that is forcing women across the country to live in fear.

"The Government should start by increasing sentences for the most serious criminals like stalkers and rapists, while working to drive up the appallingly low levels of convictions for sexual violence and domestic abuse."

Labour MP Jess Philips added: "Tackling the misogyny that drives this violence, and helping to end the intimidation and harassment so many women experience daily, is long overdue."

However, the Government has so far rejected these calls.

Justice Secretary Dominic Raab told LBC in October misogyny should not be a specific crime and focus should instead be on enforcing laws that are already in place.

"I think the things people are talking about are already criminal offences under the public order act and therefore rather than create new legislative offences where there are already a sufficient criminal base, our focus out to be on solving the problem," he said.

"The problem is one of enforcement, not that there isn't enough law."

He also confused the meaning of misogyny, saying during a separate interview that it is "absolutely wrong, whether it's a man against a woman, or a woman against a man".

Misogyny is hatred aimed at women, not men.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said around the same time "if you simply widen the scope of what you ask the police to do, you’ll just increase the problems".

Last night's defeats came as the Government attempts to crack down on disruption caused by eco-activists such as Insulate Britain.

New powers turned down by peers included allowing police officers to stop and search anyone at a protest "without suspicion" for items used to prevent a person being moved, known as "locking-on".

A move that would allow individuals with a history of causing serious disruption to be banned by the courts from attending certain protests was also dismissed, along with a proposal to make it an offence for a person to disrupt the operation of key national infrastructure, including airports and newspaper printers.

In a separate defeat, peers backed restricting the imposition of tougher sentences for blocking a highway to major routes and motorways rather than all roads.

The mauling of the Tory administration's plans sets the stage for a protracted parliamentary tussle known as ping-pong, where legislation passes between the Lords and the Commons until agreement can be reached.