Keir Starmer promises to halve violence against women as part of crime ‘mission’

keir starmer promises to halve violence against women as part of crime ‘mission’

Photograph: Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

Keir Starmer has vowed to halve violence against women and girls within a decade, setting out one of Labour’s core missions on crime as “unfinished business in my life’s work to deliver justice”.

Starmer’s speech in Stoke-on-Trent launching the second of his five “missions” said he wanted to “imagine a society where violence against women is stamped out everywhere”.

But he said complacency and austerity had led to plunging confidence in the police, saying “crime becomes decriminalised” when there is no one to follow up reports.

The Labour leader said he would set out four key targets on crime for Labour in government, which were to:

    Restore public confidence in the police and criminal justice system to its highest ever level.

    Halve knife crime incidents, including with an enhanced police presence outside schools.

    Drastically improve statistics for the proportion of crimes solved by the police.

    Drive down violence against women and improve conviction rates.

In his speech, Starmer said it was “working people who pay the heaviest price” when antisocial behaviour was rife and there was complacency from the government because “their kids don’t go to the same schools, nobody fly-tips on their streets. The threat of violence doesn’t stalk their communities.”

He said people deserved to feel “a sense of trust, of confidence, of security, it’s what gives you roots.

“But as somebody who has worked in criminal justice for most of my life, I also know that far too often, the inequalities that still scar our society – class, race, gender – find an expression in the very system that is supposed to protect us all, without discrimination.”

Starmer said there were clear and stark inequalities at play when it came to tackling crime, which he saw first-hand as director of public prosecutions.

“As chief prosecutor, the more and more case files I read, the more and more I could see those ugly inequalities at work. That’s why the mission today matters to me. I’m proud of my previous work, proud of my record at the CPS – but this is personal,” he said.

“Yes, it’s Labour’s plan to tackle the crime wave gnawing away at our collective sense of security – of course it is. But it’s also unfinished business in my life’s work to deliver justice for working people.”

Starmer said that across the country there were plummeting levels of confidence in the police. “Nearly every person I meet has at least one story, an interaction with the police where something just wasn’t followed up. Calls unanswered. Opportunities to share evidence missed. And so people give up. They stop bothering.”

The Labour leader said there would be specialist task forces in every police force on rape and violence against women, including specialist domestic abuse workers in the control rooms of every police force responding to 999 calls, supporting victims of abuse.

He said Labour would set up dedicated rape courts, saying: “The current prosecution rates are a disgrace … We all know how hard it is for women to come forward, that the criminal justice system only ever sees the tip of the iceberg on sexual violence.”

He said suppressing knife crime was a mission which began with more action on prevention. It was “about pulling young boys back before they get in too deep. It’s about good youth work, neighbourhood policing, mental health support – in every school. We’ll do all that.”

He said Labour would make the criminal exploitation of children a specific offence and use that to target the county lines gangs.

Starmer said the other key priority would be antisocial behaviour, which he said was often wrongly dismissed as low-level crime. “We need reform to get more police on the beat, fighting the virus that is antisocial behaviour.

“Fly-tipping, off-road biking in rural communities, drugs … There’s a family in my constituency, every night cannabis smoke creeps in from the street outside into their children’s bedroom – aged four and six. That’s not low-level, it’s ruining their lives.”

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