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West Berkshire safer streets champion to tackle street harassment

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Position follows the disappearance and death of Sarah Everard in Clapham

West Berkshire Council leader Lynne Doherty
West Berkshire Council leader Lynne Doherty

A SAFER streets champion could be appointed to “challenge and eradicate” street harassment in West Berkshire.

The champion would work with communities to understand concerns and receive suggestions on tackling street harassment – harassment in public areas that may involve sexual harassment, being whistled at, stalking, slurs and verbal abuse about disability, race, religion and sexuality.

The champion would work with partner agencies to “challenge and eradicate street harassment” in the district and raise public awareness.

The champion would also work with West Berkshire’s three MPs for greater police powers to act on reports of street harassment, and explore funding bids.

The motion, proposed by council leader Lynne Doherty (Con, Speen), follows the disappearance and death of Sarah Everard in London.

Ms Everard, a 33-year-old marketing executive, disappeared while walking from a friend’s house in Clapham to her home in Brixton on March 3.

Her remains were later found in an area of woodland in Ashford, Kent, and a serving Metropolitan Police officer, Pc Wayne Couzens, 48, has been charged with her kidnap and murder.

Her death sent shockwaves around the world and prompted thousands of women to share their experiences of being approached, attacked or sexually assaulted.

Mrs Doherty’s motion says: “We are all conscious that, whilst extreme occurrences such as the recently reported case of Sarah Everard in Clapham are thankfully rare, the issue of street harassment generally has been brought into sharp focus.

“Although West Berkshire has low violent crime rates, many residents may share the anxiety of not being able to walk alone without concern for their safety.

“Whilst predominantly affecting women, many people will have experienced street harassment at some point in their lives and may have felt obliged to use avoidance tactics – such as crossing the road, circumventing public spaces, and even not going out alone.”

The Government’s Crime and Justice Taskforce has said it will take immediate steps to give further reassurance to women.

Among the proposals is an additional £25m for better lighting, CCTV and a pilot-scheme which would see plain-clothes officers in pubs and clubs.

The motion comes as councils will be legally required to find victims of domestic abuse and their children a safe place to stay, something it said was currently “a common struggle”.

West Berkshire currently pays housing association A2dominion to provide victims with refuge for up to six months.

The motion will go before the council’s executive tonight (Thursday).

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