Top police officer says rooting out sexism like confronting terrorism
10th June 2022

Top police officer tasked with combatting violence against women and girls says rooting out sexism is like confronting terrorism

  • Deputy Chief Constable Maggie Blyth likened contronting police sexism to 7/7
  • She told the Mail on Sunday it will take almost 10 years to solve the sexism crisis
  •  She compared rooting out sexism to the challenge of confronting terrorism

The country’s top police officer tasked with combatting violence against women and girls has likened rooting out the epidemic of sexism to the challenge of confronting terrorism after the 7/7 suicide bomb attacks.

In an interview with The Mail on Sunday, Deputy Chief Constable Maggie Blyth, who was last year appointed as the National Police Lead for Violence Against Women and Girls, said it will take until the end of the decade to solve Britain’s sexism crisis.

Reflecting on how the public was asked to help tackle Islamic terrorism after 9/11, she said: ‘I talk to the senior policing officers behind the setting up of counter-terror nationally and going back to similar parallels 12 to 15 years ago and the big thing for me was the public campaign.

In an interview with The Mail on Sunday, Deputy Chief Constable Maggie Blyth, who was last year appointed as the National Police Lead for Violence Against Women and Girls, said it will take until the end of the decade to solve Britain’s sexism crisis

‘You can put all the resourcing and focus you want to solve it, but it’s the public campaign that makes the difference. The work with counter-terror, making the public aware of the threat, we now need to do with VAWG.’

She added: ‘I don’t think we are going to change some of these really embedded societal issues overnight and I think we need to be really honest about that,’ she said.

‘I’m looking at over this year making some real changes around how police forces tackle VAWG [violence against women and girls] but in the context of change during the whole of this decade.

‘I think it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity we have now to tackle violence against women and girls and certainly in my career and lifetime it feels like there are opportunities for change.

‘I would liken it to some of the things I’ve seen in my lifetime like smoking, seat belts, drink-driving. Those have been campaigns. They have been approaches to changing how the public think which take the years.

‘We’re then moving into a decade where you look back and think, “My goodness is that how people used to behave and think?”. I think we’re in one of those moments in society in a way I’ve not seen in my career.’

The country’s top police officer tasked with combatting violence against women and girls has likened rooting out the epidemic of sexism to the challenge of confronting terrorism after the 7/7 suicide bomb attacks. Pictured: The 7/7 bomb blast scene at Upper Woburn Place, London

Ms Blyth is undertaking her task at a time when the police are facing accusations of institutional misogyny and the dark shadow of Wayne Couzens (pictured), the Metropolitan Police officer who abducted, raped and murdered Sarah Everard last March, still hangs over the profession

Ms Blyth is undertaking her task at a time when the police are facing accusations of institutional misogyny and the dark shadow of Wayne Couzens, the Metropolitan Police officer who abducted, raped and murdered Sarah Everard last March, still hangs over the profession.

Challenging the Government to provide police with the right tools to combat the harassment of women in the street or on public transport, Ms Blyth complained that officers were ‘using 20th century policing and tactics with what is a 21st century issue’.

Echoing comments made last month by Nimco Ali, the Government’s independent adviser on tackling violence against women and girls and a close friend of Carrie Johnson, that her call for street harassment to be made a crime had suffered ‘pushback’, Ms Blyth pointed out that crude remarks and unwanted advances were currently prosecuted under voyeurism and harassment legislation which required police to demonstrate ‘a course of conduct’.

‘I think that needs a real overhaul from the people that make legislation, that is Government,’ she said. ‘As a woman, we know what it’s like to sit on a tube to be stared at or followed, all of those things that can make women feel uncomfortable.’

She was similarly insistent that social media companies such as Facebook and Snapchat be ‘held to account for harmful behaviour to women and girls’, describing the Government’s proposed Online Harms Bill as a ‘real opportunity’.

She added: ‘We’re all so reliant on living and working online as part of our everyday lives, we now need to make sure the regulation is in place for those people who want to cause violence and get away with it online. It needs to stop.’

Challenging the Government to provide police with the right tools to combat the harassment of women in the street or on public transport, Ms Blyth complained that officers were ‘using 20th century policing and tactics with what is a 21st century issue’

Speaking after Everyone’s Invited, a website where victims of sexual crimes can post anonymous allegations, revealed it had received complaints from pupils at almost 8,400 schools, Ms Blyth risked controversy by saying students who come forward with claims ‘will be believed’ by police.

Critics have expressed concern that Everyone’s Invited is circumventing the justice system, but Ms Blyth said: ‘I really applaud any girl or young adult who has come forward with evidence of what happened to them at school or university.

‘It [Everyone’s Invited] is a really good initiative … I hope it gives girls confidence that policing will take things seriously even if it didn’t happen yesterday … Come forward with your account, you will be believed and you will be listened to.’

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