Boris Johnson has blocked plans to make street harassment a crime, says Nimco Ali

·3 min read
The government says tackling violence against women is a priority - Ian West/PA
The government says tackling violence against women is a priority - Ian West/PA

An independent adviser and friend of Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie has appeared to suggest the Prime Minister blocked a new offence of street harassment.

Nimco Ali, the Home Office’s independent adviser on tackling violence against women, said her plan for a new offence had suffered “pushback” within the Government despite the Home Secretary being “very much behind” her campaign.

Calls for a new offence of street harassment such as wolf-whistling, catcalling, pestering people or making lewd comments intensified in the wake of the murder of Sarah Everard, who was abducted and raped while walking home in south London last year.

It has been backed by the Law Commission which last December urged the Government to consider making public sexual harassment and inciting hatred against women to be made criminal offences as part of an overhaul of laws to protect women and girls against violence.

Patel ‘very much behind’ campaign but others ‘saying no’

Speaking on the BBC’s Political Thinking with Nick Robinson, she said Ms Patel was “very much behind” her campaign but “then you meet other people saying no”.

“It’s been frustrating and it’s been disappointing,” she added, claiming she had received “pushback” from other parts of the Government.

Asked if this had come from the Prime Minister’s advisers, she replied that the source had been “a lot closer than that”, adding people would be able to interpret “my silence”.

Ms Ali later tweeted that she “did not blame him for this” and Downing Street said the Government was still considering how a “specific offence” could address the concerns Ms Ali  had outlined.

Ms Ali had told the BBC that failing to make street harassment a crime meant “that we are actually corroding society and we are allowing young women to be subjected to lived experiences which are going to have a massive detriment to their health on a day-to-day basis”.

Ms Ali also said the UK Government was “falling behind on being a global leader” on women’s rights.

When she was appointed as an adviser, Ms Ali said more needed to be done to curb violence against women.

It is understood the Government is willing to consider a new offence of street harassment but only if it is shown that other laws - such as public order or harassment acts - fail to tackle the problem.

Asked at the Tory conference last year about making misogyny a hate crime, Mr Johnson said: “What I am saying is that there is an abundant statute that is not being properly enforced. That’s what we need to focus on. I am talking about domestic violence, I am talking about rape, I am talking about harassment,” he said.

“There is plenty of law about harassment and it is not being properly enforced. That’s what the police need to be doing. They need to be taking women’s complaints seriously.”