The Memo: New women's safety bill to criminalise catcalling

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New women's safety bill to criminalise catcalling

Chelsey Stanborough - 09 January 2023

A recent survey conducted by YouGov found that two thirds of women do not feel safe walking home in London. Concerns over women’s safety is, sadly, nothing new, but whether it’s the tragic recent case of aspiring lawyer Zara Aleena, or the murder of Sarah Everard in 2021, public awareness of women’s safety in public spaces is at an all-time high.

With the support of the Home Secretary, the UK government has initiated further action, with catcalling, blocking a woman’s path or following her all set to be criminalised in England and Wales. Other types of punishable behaviour include (but are not limited to) making obscene or aggressive gestures or comments towards a person, or driving a vehicle slowly beside someone making a journey. The bill will also introduce harsher sentences, increasing the maximum sentence from six months to two years.

It is hoped that tighter restrictions and harsher sentences will result in a greater faith in the system. With a possible rise in cases filtering through the CPS, the demand for criminal lawyers will be higher than ever. Commentators also hope that the introduction of £25 million in extra funding for better lighting and CCTV in public spaces will make it more likely that perpetrators will be brought to justice. For aspiring lawyers interested in these kinds of cases, work in criminal law – while not for the faint-hearted – can be extremely rewarding. For more information, take a look at our criminal law practice area guide.