Sexual harassment in street could be a crime as Priti Patel reopens nationwide review into violence against women

PRITI Patel tonight issued a call for women across Britain to come forward with their experiences of violence and harassment in light of the murder of Sarah Everard.

The Home Secretary reopened a review into the scourge of brutality against women and how it can be tackled as MPs backed calls to make sexual harassment in the street a crime.

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She made the move in response to the outpouring of grief on social media over Sarah's murder, which saw many women sharing their own experiences of violence at the hands of men.

Mrs Patel said: “While an awful incident like this is incredibly rare, it is worrying because it reminds women everywhere of the steps we all take on a daily basis, without a second thought, to keep ourselves safe.

“So many of you have bravely shared your own experiences of harassment, abuse and violence online over recent days,

"So today I am re-opening our nationwide call for views on tackling violence against women and girls. The government is listening.

“Everyone should be free to walk our streets without the slightest fear.

"With Sarah and her family in my thoughts and prayers, I will continue to do all I can in my role as Home Secretary to protect women and girls.”

The nationwide survey on tackling violence against women and girls, which heard from victims directly, closed last month after more than 15,000 responses.

But it has now been reopened for an extra two weeks so more women can come forward and share their experiences.

The announcement came as calls for new laws to make sexual harassment of women in the street a crime were backed by MPs.

Mrs Patel is looking at giving police new powers to crack down on intimidating behaviour and abuse in public.

Campaigners have been urging the Government to make misogyny a hate crime, meaning police would have to record it.

Their calls have gained cross-party support.

Tory MP Caroline Nokes, chair of the Women and Equalities Select Committee, said: "There's a really good case for misogyny to be a hate crime."

Labour backbencher Stella Creasy added: "This is our moment for change.

"It's time to send a message women should be equally able to live free from fear of assault or harm from those who target them simply for who they are."

Ministers have signalled that they're open to toughening up the law to crack down on public sexual harassment.

The issue has been highlighted by the suspected murder of 33-year-old Sarah.

Education minister Michelle Donelan said: "There is always much more that we can do and we will take away any learnings from this.

"As a Government we have a focus on this agenda. If more legislation is needed, I'm sure we'll bring that forward."

A Home Office source said the proposal is "being looked at" as part of a wider sexual violence strategy.

A cross-party amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill will be voted on in the Lords next week.

It aims to make all police forces record whether crimes are motivated by hatred of someone's sex or gender.

The move comes a body found in Kent woodland on Wednesday was formally identified as Sarah's.

Boris Johnson said he was "shocked and appalled" by the news and that the whole country was united in grief.

Cop Wayne Couzens, 48, has been arrested on suspicion of murder and kidnap in relation to her death.

Police are investigating whether he used his warrant card to entice her into a car as she walked home at night.

The marketing executive Sarah vanished without a trace on March 3 after leaving a friends house in Clapham at about 9pm.

She's thought to have be making the 50-minute walk to her flat in Brixton, where she lived alone, when she was snatched.

Detectives believe she walked over Clapham Common and was seen on CCTV about halfway through the journey, on the A205 Poynders Road at 9.30pm.

She had been on the phone with her boyfriend Josh Lowth, also 33, for 15 minutes. After that her phone lost signal or was switched off.

She was not seen on CCTV further down the road, or by her flat in Brixton.

It has been claimed police failed to act against Couzens over an accusation of indecent exposure at a McDonald's in South London three days earlier.

The case has ignited sadness and fury among women – who do not feel safe at night – and promoted calls for greater action to protect them.

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