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A chance for the voices of women and girls finally to be heard

Meeting begins at 7pm on Monday November 22

19 November, 2021 — By Isabelle Stanley

A vigil for Nicole Smallman on Primrose Hill

THE Town Hall will hold a debate about how to tackle violence against women and girls for the first time on Monday – but campaigners have warned that the event could pass without any meaningful action being taken.

The New Journal is among voices demanding that the summit marks a turning point in making women feel safer on the streets – and for casual misogyny to be addressed.

The meeting – which all can watch online from 7pm – comes after the death of Nicole Hurley, a mother-of-four, at her home in Primrose Hill. Her partner, Jason Bell, was later charged with murder and legal proceedings are ongoing.

At a candlelit vigil in her honour, Ms Hurley’s daughters described her as “funny, smart and beautiful”.

Earlier last month, meanwhile, police opened a rape inquiry after a 24-year-old woman was followed out of a kebab shop in Camden Town and raped in a nearby alleyway.

According to the Met’s crime data, 30 people have told police they have been raped in Camden this month, and these are only the crimes which have been reported.

Borough Commander, Chief Superintendent Andy Carter, who will be attending the debate next week along with survivors of sexual violence and representatives from charities and schools, has said: “We recognise that under-reporting of these issues can be significant and that’s why it’s so important to ensure the trust of victims and our interactions with them.”

In the wake of the murder of Sarah Everard in south London earlier this year, he added: “This feels like a really significant moment. We’ve got to do everything we can to set the highest standards and deliver them to ensure this never happens again.”

The shocking details of the case – Ms Everard was abducted by a serving police officer using handcuffs before she was raped and killed – led to demands for the Met to take swift action.

But it has also had to explain its investigations into the deaths of Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman, and Sabina Nessa.

Last month, London’s police force apologised for their handling of Ms Henry and Ms Smallman’s missing person cases. They failed to act for 24 hours, leaving the family to discover the young women’s dead bodies themselves.

Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick said: “If we had responded better we may have saved their friends and family immeasurable pain.”

It was after Ms Everard’s death that the New Journal made a public pledge to make sure our coverage of issues around misogyny would not be limited to the aftermath of particular serious crimes occurring – as is the general trend in journalism.

The pre-meeting report for the council’s debate is filled with statements such as “our approach needs to tackle male violence against women and girls at its root” and “Camden is committed to making Camden a place where everyone has a chance to succeed, where nobody gets left behind and where everybody has a voice.”

Campaigners say these statements are not enough and more meaningful plans are needed.

Jamie Klingler, a Camden resident and founder of Reclaim These Streets, a campaign against street harassment, said: “Phrases like ‘We have to eradicate male violence’ are meaningless. We can’t think we’re going to end up in utopia after Monday, it’s not going to happen in our lifetimes.”

She added: “We have to focus on measurable goals and successes. We need specifics. By having really focused, achievable goals we can make strides. They say ‘we’re against violence’, but they don’t actually do anything. For example, incidence of anti-social behaviour has been really high along the canal, but nothing has been done about it – no lights or patrols.”

Lisa Longstaff, founder of Women Against Rape, said: “Camden had better back women’s demands for resources, proper investigations and the sacking of corrupt officers or they too will be held responsible for the violence we face.”

Ahead of the meeting, leader of the council Georgia Gould said: “This is an opportunity to ensure the voices of women and girls and organisations that are doing so much work to tackle domestic violence and violence against women and girls are raised.

“We will have everyone there including the borough commander and I hope there will be an increased commitment to meaningful action.

“There’s action we’re taking as a council, with the launch of our Women’s Forum report, but it’s also a call to action for other people.”

She added: “We wanted to do it when the Women’s Forum report was out so that there was a set of recommendations and actions to debate, so this was the first council that coincided with that.

“This is work we’ve been doing with our community for months and now we’re at the point we can take action.”


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