Police forces across England and Wales are considering expanding their definitions of hate crime to include misogyny following a ‘successful’ experiment in Nottingham. Since the scheme was introduced in April, 21 misogynistic incidents have been reported to Nottinghamshire Police.
Specially trained officers have been targeting behaviour ranging from ‘unwanted or uninvited verbal contact or engagement’ to ‘unwanted sexual advances’ and actual physical assault. While other police forces are keen to sign up, no doubt to boost their right-on credentials, the results of this experiment merit a second look.
Nottinghamshire Police told spiked that of the 21 incidents reported, just seven were recorded as crimes. And all of these were existing crimes: one was possession of a weapon, and another was causing ‘racially or religiously aggravated public fear, alarm or distress’. They were included in the misogynistic hate-crime statistics, because, according to a Nottinghamshire Police spokesperson, ‘these are all criminal offences which have been perceived to be motivated by misogyny by the victim’.
But how can a victim really know the intention behind a crime? If a crime has been committed, it should, of course, be investigated and dealt with in the usual way. But does it really make any difference whether the victim thought they were targeted because they were a woman?
The figures paint a confusing picture. From the 21 incidents, to date just two men have been arrested – for public-order offences and actual bodily harm. No one has been arrested for misogynistic hate crime alone. Two thirds of the incidents recorded were not even crimes, yet the police investigated them anyway. This is worrying. Not only is it potentially wasting police time, it is subjecting people who have done nothing illegal to formal investigations.