The Police lie at the centre of British femicide. This must be acknowledged to save the lives of women in the UK, writes Tofi Omisore.

Since the brutal murder of Sarah Everard in March, the topic of violence against women has persisted at the forefront of our socio-political agenda. Despite this discourse however, women are still being violated, abused and murdered by men across the country. As the face of social security and our criminal justice system, it is unclear whether the Police have a strategy for effectively dealing with British femicide, not least because there seems to be no acknowledgement of the substantial role they play in perpetuating this violence.

In the past 28 weeks, 81 women have been killed by men in the UK; 62 per cent of those women were killed by a partner or ex-partner and 92 per cent of those women were killed by someone they know. The nature of this violence in Britain is not new or out of the ordinary. Karen Ingala Smith, chief executive of the Nia Project, established Counting Dead Women, a project that recognises these murdered women as whole individuals rather than statistics and, moreover, highlights the extent to which femicide is endemic to society as opposed to a cluster of isolated incidents.

Since 2012, at least 120 women have been murdered by men every year, most of whom were young and most of whom reached out to police prior to their death. Nevertheless, this problem relies not wholly on the police's failure to respond to these women but also, the ways in which they enable and create circumstances under which violence against women occurs.

Men who commit violence against women do so under the conscious or sub-conscious understanding that they are protected by social institutions. These men often have a violent history but failure to properly convict these men of crimes affords them the opportunity to murder. Consider also the Covert Human Intelligence Act, which allows undercover police officers to commit crime in advance of an operation with total immunity afterwards; this law was passed with complete disregard for the fact that abuse of women is often a consequence of an abuse of power.

Sarah Everard's murderer, Wayne Couzens, was a serving police officer who had numerous incidents of indecent exposure connected to the vehicle within which he kidnapped Sarah. He was nicknamed 'the rapist' by his colleagues with whom he also shared racist, misogynistic and homophobic material regularly. Shana Grice, murdered who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend in 2015, was fined £90 for 'wasting police time' when she reported him five times over six months.

Suzanne Van Hagen, murdered in 2013 by John Worton, called the police to their shared apartment nine times and, in one case, was arrested for possession of cannabis that belonged to John; the police officer leading the case was fired two years later for harassing four female colleagues. Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman, who were brutally murdered in a London park, had police officers take selfies with their corpses and share them on WhatsApp. Their bodies were found, not by police officers, but by Henry's long-term boyfriend.

Write for us.

We're always on the lookout for talented writers and welcome submissions. Please send your opinion piece or pitch to:

These cases demonstrate, amongst may other things. that the protection offered by judiciary systems to police officers creates an avenue through which they can abuse. neglect and degrade women.

The narrative that is often pushed forward by the police and the wider media is that these incidents are isolated, and crimes are committed by "one bad apple" – Cressida Dick, Metropolitan Police Commissioner, even went as far as to claim that some police officers are abused at home, thus explaining their behaviour. However, statistics show this to be false, and that in fact police officers are the abusers in many cases.

From 2019 to 2021, nearly 700 cases of domestic abuse by police officers were reported with only 3.9 per cent of perpetrators being convicted. The Met Chief Superintendent, in a Radio 4 interview, admitted that female police officers were discouraged from reporting abusive behaviour in the workplace by colleagues whilst 52 per cent of London police officers found guilty of sexual assault in the last four years kept their job. Police Commissioner, Philip Allott, claimed that Sarah 'never should have submitted to arrest' and calls for him to resign were rejected by the Prime Minister himself.

This is not just an issue of action, or rather inaction, taken by the police but also the pervasive misogynistic sentiment that runs through it as an institution. The police enable violence against women by not taking their reports seriously and they commit violence against women at a disproportionate rate. Of course, this is a microcosm of a wider culture that perpetuates misogyny, but this does not absolve Police of responsibility, particularly because of their unique social duty in society.

The final report by Her Majesty's ICFRS stated that dealing with femicide is a priority for the UK government and there should be clear preventative measures in place to stop the violence before it occurs. Men who are sentenced for femicide or violence against women, upon being released, often go on to commit those crimes again – intervention within prison is therefore also vital to combatting this issue.

Nevertheless, new laws that are passed either miss the mark or do not directly deal with the problem at hand. The new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill does not include domestic abuse, domestic homicide of sexual violence and the new domestic abuse bill excluded putting domestic serial abusers on the Violence and Sex Offender Register due to financial constraints.

The only way Britain can seriously grapple with the endemic violence committed against women is by advocating for a police force that explicitly acknowledges the role they play in enabling this violence and acts accordingly. Failure to do so will only jeopardise the lives of more women and facilitate the loss of loved ones across the country.

23 votes

Sign-up for free to stay up to date with the latest political news, analysis and insight from the Comment Central team.

By entering your email address you are agreeing to Comment Central’s privacy policy