In her keynote speech to the Conservative party annual conference in Manchester this afternoon, home secretary Priti Patel announced an independent inquiry into policing, a toughening up in approach to disruptive protests, and a crackdown on illegal routes to asylum.
She opened the speech by reflecting on the Sarah Everard case, stating:
“Her murderer, whose name I will not repeat, was a monster,” and that the “abhorrent” crime had led her to redouble her “efforts to ensure women and girls feel safer.”
She referred to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill currently being considered by parliament as a step the government was making towards this goal, highlighting its plans to extend “Whole Life Orders to child murderers and end automatic halfway release for serious sexual and violent offenders.”
She also referred to her re-opening of a survey on crimes that disproportionately affect women and girls in the wake of the Everard case, which she said informed the Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy launched by her department earlier this year.
She went on to announce an independent inquiry into how Sarah Everard’s killer was able to serve as a police officer. This will be a separate inquiry to the review into the Met’s “standards and culture” announced yesterday by Metropolitan Police commissioner Dame Cressida Dick.
The inquiry launched today will investigate what might and ought to have been done to prevent Everard’s murder, amid claims that her killer, a serving police office, was nicknamed “the rapist” at his previous force and was allegedly involved in two separate incidents of indecent exposure.
She praised policing overall, saying: “This government will always back the brave men and women of our police, and it is because of our strong relationship with the police that I can ask the difficult questions and support them to do better.”
She also referred to plans to outlaw “virginity testing”, a practice she referred to as “ barbaric, medieval, and invasive”.
She also set out her plans, announced last night, to toughen police powers to remove protestors blocking key infrastructure.
While she said “Freedom to protest is a fundamental right our Party will forever fight to uphold,” she referred to measures in the ongoing Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill that will criminalise protests thought to be causing significant disruption.
She then moved to discuss the ongoing issue of illegal immigration in the Channel. She described the situation as “unsafe, unfair, and unacceptable,” and said the government is targeting the people smugglers.
In August 2021 there were a record 828 arrivals on Britain’s shores in just one day, and around 12,500 people in total crossed the Channel between January and September this year.
Mrs Patel criticised the automatic right to appeal asylum claims and the ability of lawyers to block deportations.
She added that: “Labour would have you believe the capacity of our asylum system is unlimited,” and suggested that economic migrants are “undermining our ability to support those in genuine need of protection.”
She also summarised her plans to reform the asylum system, which she claimed will “speed up the removal of those with no legal right to be in our country”, and will “for the first time” be influenced by how an asylum seeker arrives in the country.
Earlier this year the home secretary promised to tackle “illegal migration head-on” as she announced the new Nationality and Borders Bill. Currently at their committee stage in the House of Commons, she described the plans as the “most significant overhaul of our asylum system in decades”.