Government backs making public sexual harassment a criminal offence | Politics News

Calls to make public sexual harassment a criminal offence have been backed by the government.

Priti Patel launched a targeted consultation in July when she was home secretary to see if women’s charities, the legal sector and the police thought the move was necessary.

And after five months, the Home Office has concluded it should be introduced after “the significant majority” of respondents were in favour.

A number of charities have campaigned for street harassment to be outlawed, with Plan International saying 75% of girls, some as young have 12, have experienced some form of public sexual harassment in their lifetime.

‘Strong support’

The Home Office announced its decision on the government website, saying the option it supported would see higher sentencing for behaviour that falls within section 4A of the Public Order Act 1986 – namely when a person uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour – when done because of the victim’s sex.

The statement said: “We note the significant majority of respondents in favour of an offence, and the strong support given to some of the possible reasons in favour of one, such as the deterrent effect of a new law and its ability to raise awareness, and its ability to provide clarity to the law and encourage reporting.

“We also note the other arguments put forward, such as its ability to help drive cultural change.”

Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said “any action to tackle the epidemic of violence against women and girls is welcome”, but she urged the government to “go further and faster”.

She added: “Labour has a plan to put rape and domestic abuse specialists in every police force in the country, introduce fast-track rape courts and a domestic abuse register, and overhaul police training so that every victim gets the best possible support.”

Sky News has contacted the Home Office to find out the next steps.