Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill Debate

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Department: Home Office
It is not that I want reassurance from the Government. If anything, I want us to have a pause on this. It has become fashionable to feel that you have to say such things. I am as concerned as anyone about the problems with prosecutions and convictions for rape. These are discrete and important issues for us to deal with. Under the auspices of concern about misogyny, we have to be careful. If you oppose acting—or being seen to act—in relation to misogyny, I really do not want to be told that it means one is cavalier about violence against girls and women. Of course I am not cavalier about that; why would I be? But this is not a rampaging issue that threatens everyone, and it needs to be dealt with proportionately and with some sensitivity, rather than under a banner headline.
Baroness D'Souza Portrait Baroness D’Souza (CB)
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My Lords, in defending freedom of expression, which often includes offensive speech, various criteria are maintained, which largely concern the context in which the speech occurs. There are two particular aspects. The first is whether the hate speech, misogynistic or otherwise, is able to be avoided. Is there a way in which the individual can avoid the speech, for example by not turning on the radio or their text messages, or whatever it might be? The second is one that has already been alluded to by the noble Baroness, Lady Fox. It is the extent to which there is a direct relationship between hate speech, misogynistic speech, and actual harm coming to an individual woman.

The noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, who is to be commended on almost everything that she does, talked about protecting thoughts. In a way, what one is doing is contradicting that by saying that if someone is thinking about delivering offensive speech that will automatically, if it is expressed, lead to action. I think there is a tiny bit of confusion here. Although I will support the amendment, there is an element of curtailing freedom of speech that we ought to be mindful of.

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)
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My Lords, recently I was going home late and I got into a cab and was chatting to the cabbie. At some point he said, “Oh, you posh young birds”. It was so inappropriate on so many levels that I did not know what to do. I did not tip him, of course. It struck me that it was not necessarily offensive—but I did object to it.

I have heard today two incredibly powerful speeches in favour of the Motion, from the noble Lord, Lord Russell, and the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy. I do not understand why the Government have not heard this message. It is not coming from just these two people; it is coming from millions of women who experience misogyny and really do need protection. It is not enough to say, as the police often do, “Don’t wear short skirts, don’t go out after dark and don’t drink too much” and things like that. This is on a completely different level. It is about protecting women who cannot protect themselves, so I hope that the Government are listening.

I noticed that the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson, was writing very seriously during these speeches. I hope he was making prestigious notes about what was said and how important it was, and I hope the Government are listening.