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Howard League blog · 22 Jan 2020

Travelling to meet police (and staying within the speed limit)

We are facing the new year in uncertain times. Government rhetoric is dispiriting and seems to be designed to play to the lowest human instincts. It feels a bit like we are all in stasis, awaiting a maelstrom of legislation and activity. Meanwhile, we are getting on with our work with energy as the Howard League is in good shape.

I am spending a lot of time meeting with senior police as part of our new programme to reduce the arrests of women. We are building on our success at supporting the police in reducing child arrests and we now want to prevent women from entering the toxic wastelands of the criminal justice system.

I had a lively and extremely useful meeting with the Assistant Chief Constable in Merseyside. It was particularly poignant for me as the only time I have ever been stopped by the police was in Liverpool. (I am a middle-class white woman, so of course I am not going to get stopped.)

It was years ago when I was ‘managing’ a rock band of friends in the city, most of whom, like me, had just graduated from the university and were engaged in the quasi-punk music scene. I was the only one who could drive and I bought an old Manchester city parks blue transit, replete with the gold crest on the side. It did 40mph downhill and burnt oil, but I loved it.

Almost 100,000 women are arrested each year, and more effort can be made to cut that number

Coming back from a gig at 4am, with about 17 lads and all the equipment jammed into the van, I jumped a red light in the empty city centre and was stopped by a very jolly copper. He said: be more careful, I don’t want to see you in the morgue. It may be one of the reasons I have driven for 40 years with only two speeding endorsements, both for being marginally over the limit and on clear motorways when there were roadworks with speed restrictions.

That police officer used his discretion and got the desired effect. My discussions with the police recently have been to press them to support their officers to avoid the arrest of women whenever possible. Liverpool is well served by women’s centres so that women can be diverted to more appropriate services when they have need of mental health or additional support, or are victims of domestic abuse, homelessness or have other needs.

Almost 100,000 women are arrested each year – far fewer than men – but we are convinced that more effort can be made to cut that number even more.

I met with officers from South Yorkshire a couple of weeks ago, and this week I am off to Gloucestershire – where I will also revisit the superb women’s centre run by the Nelson Trust. I am looking forward to meetings with Cleveland, the Met, South Wales and West Midlands.

Will keep you posted.


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