Opinion

For women, devolving justice and policing goes beyond politics – we need to fix a broken system

17 Oct 2021 4 minutes Read
Photo by Katherine Gu on Unsplash/

Llinos Dafydd

It is five years today since I first shared my story of being raped at the age of 14.

It’s also four years since the #MeToo movement exploded into the public consciousness in the wake of allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

Can I, hand on heart, claim that anything has really improved in that time?

Well, I think there has been a general improvement in attitudes towards this issue of rape and sexual assault against women and a readiness to discuss what was once taboo. Women in particular have had a gutful of living in fear and are talking about it more openly.

But while attitudes may have improved, it could be argued that outcomes have only gotten worse.

Even the UK Government has been forced to admit that budget cuts have been at least partly to blame for convictions falling to a record low in recent years.

Home Secretary Priti Patel and Attorney General Michael Ellis, said that the “vast majority of victims do not see the crime against them charged and reach a court”.

“These are trends of which we are deeply ashamed,” they wrote. “Victims of rape are being failed.”

Fraction

However, this contrition feels hollow when rape conviction rates have been utterly abysmal for years and there is no real indication that anything serious is being done about it.

Approximately 85,000 women and 12,000 men over the age of 16 experience rape, attempted rape or sexual assault by penetration in Wales and England alone every year.

Only 5.7% of reported rape cases end in a conviction for the perpetrator.

And these reported rapes are of course themselves a fraction of the number of rapes that do happen, because most women (85% of the total) don’t tell the police in the first place.

Sue Fish, the ex-chief of Nottinghamshire Police, made clear that she herself would be in two minds about approaching the police if she was raped or sexually assaulted.

And with dinosaur-era attitudes such as those of former North Yorkshire police commissioner Philip Allott, who resigned under pressure after saying raped and murdered Sarah Everard should not have “submitted” to arrest by her killer Wayne Couzens, a serving police officer, who can blame women for being unconvinced that perspectives have really changed?

Power

There is much we can do ourselves in Wales.

Initiatives like Cardiff’s safe places is an excellent one in providing any women who feel intimidated with an accessible network of support.

We also need to reform our education system, not to advise women not to walk home alone at night but to teach men about consent and what is acceptable.

But we need more than this. We need more than an open discussion about subjects like these. We need more than hashtags and slogans. We need more than rape being considered a serious crime, but not in practice treated like one.

We need those in positions of power to act.

If they begin to act now, starting with a culture change in the police and proper funding of the justice system, we might see women’s confidence in the justice and policing system being to build in the next few decades.

However, I think it would be extremely naive of us to put our faith in those who have been in charge of these issues to act after decades of neglect.

We should go a step further in Wales and campaign for the wholesale devolution of justice and policing so that we can begin sorting out these problems for ourselves.

Justice is already devolved to Scotland and Northern Ireland. Even Greater Manchester has powers over policing. There is no good reason to refuse this to Wales apart from political posturing.

If change won’t come from the centre – from Westminster and the London Met – we in Wales will have to take that power into our own hands.

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Sue jones davies
Sue jones davies
1 month ago

cytuno’n llwyr…completely agree
.
If there’s a genuine will for change, there will be a way.But if there’s no real will,there will always be excuses.

hdavies15
hdavies15
1 month ago

The entire issue needs to be addressed from at least 2 directions. The longer term remedy should be driven by education – not only in schools- but via media and any valid channels. We need to communicate clearly to all age groups that such behaviours, not just rape and murder, but the whole list of hostile and negative acts on the rising scale from zero, are not admissible any longer. It’s long term but needs to get started sharpish. The short term remedies are likely to be more punitive in nature. Obviously criminals need to be dealt with. However there… Read more »

j humphrys
j humphrys
1 month ago

I would, once again, advocate Women’s Police Stations. If I were a woman, I think I would feel much more comfortable going to such a station to report attack, or abuse.

Also, small general police stations on certain street corners, instead of one giant place on the outskirts? Finally, police on the visible beat, two by two, sends a signal.

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
1 month ago

When we call for the devolution of our Criminal Justice System, are often told, ‘why replace something that’s not broken’, by ones who show hostility towards Welsh devolution. We have a Senedd Cymru with the power to legislate, but that parliament & Welsh Law is bound to an English Criminal Justice System.? Rediculous. And I’ve often heard hostile Tory, and yes, Labour voices state , ‘we are British’ the reason to deny Wales the devolution. But they forget. Both Scotland & NI have control of their Policing & Criminal Justice Systems , and this under the umbrella of the United… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Y Cymro
Shan Morgain
1 month ago

I am 72 and very aware all my life that females and young males are prey for males. We live in fear and vigilance: those who do not are in denial. So I am delighted to see this awareness coming into the open in the media. BUT talk of a broken system, laws, police, is still denial. The problem is men, how we bring up boys, how we let men be feral. “Boys will be boys” they say. Yes they will if we allow it. Boys must be sharply and lovingly disciplined when they are cruel and selfish. Men must… Read more »

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