Harborough mum whose daughter was tragically murdered by her ex-boyfriend is calling on Leicestershire Police to make misogyny a hate crime

“All too often abuse aimed at girls and women starts out on a relatively low level and then escalates into something much worse and much more serious”

Thursday, 7th October 2021, 6:19 pm
Dr Sue Hills with her daughter Alice Ruggles

A Harborough mum whose daughter was tragically murdered by her ex-boyfriend is calling on Leicestershire Police to make misogyny a hate crime.

Dr Sue Hills, 59, is making her heartfelt plea to the force after the brutal abduction, rape and murder of Sarah Everard, 33, by serving Met Police officer PC Wayne Couzens, 48.

The horrific killing of Sarah has triggered an emotionally-charged national debate on all types of violence against girls and women after shocking the entire nation.

Alice Ruggles.

And it has led to demands for misogyny to be treated as a hate crime by all police forces after trailblazing Nottinghamshire Police led the way in July 2016.

Today Dr Hills, of Tur Langton, near Market Harborough, told the Harborough Mail: “I would like to see Leicestershire Police make misogyny a hate crime here in our county.

“It’s a good idea and it would be a big step forward.

“All too often abuse aimed at girls and women starts out on a relatively low level and then escalates into something much worse and much more serious,” warned Sue, whose daughter Alice Ruggles, 24, was murdered by her soldier ex-boyfriend in Gateshead in October 2016.

“So I do think the police here should treat all misogynistic incidents against all females as hate crimes and take the necessary action.”

Asked if girls and women can continue to trust the police after Couzens used his warrant card and handcuffs to kidnap Sarah in south London, Sue replied: “It would be very dangerous to tell them not to trust the police now.

“We can’t tar all police officers with the same brush.

“But I also understand totally why some people will think that way now.

“It is very important that we have a detailed investigation to find out why Couzens was allowed to carry on serving in the force (after serious questions arose over his previous behaviour).

“Police officers are there to enforce the law to the best of their ability.

“And they should never, of course, act as if they are above the law themselves,” “said the campaigning mother-of-four, who set up the Alice Ruggles Trust with other members of her family to stamp out stalking and other offences against women.

“Police should always operate in pairs, especially when in plain clothes.

“But it is difficult because they don’t have the money to do that.

“The misogynistic behaviour of some male police officers is, unfortunately, a reflection of our society.

“It’s still just seen as laddish, something to be laughed off.

“But that can quickly turn into wholly unacceptable abuse.

“Boys and young men have to be told when their behaviour towards girls and women is not appropriate.

“They have to be educated about this – and brought up to act the right way by their families at home,” insisted Sue, a teacher.

“Alice worked in a local pub around here for a while.

“She told me that there would be tables of middle-aged men in there and some of the things they said was horrific.

“They’d make indecent suggestions to her and her female colleagues in the pub.

“They thought that was OK once they’d had a few drinks.

“The very worrying thing is that these men were the fathers of some of Alice’s good friends.

“They had wives and daughters themselves – and they still thought it was all right to make those disgusting comments,” said Sue.

“Girls and women have been treated just as objects for far too long – and it’s got to stop.”

A staggering 79 women have been killed in acts of violence or suspicious circumstances in the UK just over the seven months since Sarah was murdered in March.

“Sarah’s killing was tragic.

“But it’s equally tragic to see that so many other women are being killed week in week out up and down the country,” said Sue.

“It all adds up to a terrible toll.

“But it’s also unfair on men who don’t perpetuate horrible misogyny to treat all men the same.

“So the sooner we see misogyny turned into a hate crime to target those men responsible of such intolerable abuse the better.”

A Leicestershire Police spokesman told the Mail that “there is currently no national requirement to record misogyny as a hate crime”.

“Misogyny is not currently one of the nationally-monitored strands of hate crime.

“However, Leicestershire Police does record reports of misogyny as non-crime hate incidents,” he said.

“We are awaiting the outcome of the ongoing Lord Commissioner’s consultation and to receive further guidance on how such matters should be recorded.”

A Northamptonshire Police spokeswoman said they do already treat misogyny as a hate crime.

And the force’s Chief Constable Nick Adderley is vowing to shake up the way that his plain-clothed officers operate in the county following Sarah’s murder.

“I know you will all share my horror at the actions of this man (Couzens).

“Police officers and staff who want to protect the public are sickened by his crimes.

“We understand how deeply concerning his actions are and want to let you know about the measures we’re taking to help the people we protect and serve feel confident in us and the vital work we do,” said Mr Adderley.

“Police officers always carry identification and can always be asked for verification.

“They are used to providing that reassurance.

“I have reminded all my officers of the need for them to be proactive in providing evidence of who they are, including producing their warrant and identity card.

“It would be extremely unusual for an officer in plain clothes to be working alone, and if they are, as standard practice they should be calling for assistance with other officers arriving very soon.

“Here in Northamptonshire, going forward I have ordered that all plain-clothed officers operating on patrol or who will be approaching members of the public without prior appointment will do so in pairs.

“If you are stopped by one of our officers and still wish to check their identity after they have shown you their warrant card, they will assist you to call our Force Control Room on 101, where the call handlers can independently verify their details to you.”

Leicestershire Police told the Mail that they are not issuing their own statement after ex-policeman Couzens was jailed for a very rare whole-life term for murdering Sarah.

The force echoed this comment made by the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC): “The monstrous actions of Wayne Couzens are a terrible abuse of power and do not represent policing.

“Police officers and staff who want to protect the public are sickened by this man’s crimes.

“We understand how deeply concerning his actions are and the desire to know how to verify an officers’ identity.

“Police officers always carry identification and can always be asked for verification.

“They are used to providing that reassurance.

“It would be extremely unusual for an officer in plain clothes to be working alone,” said the NPCC.

“If they are, they should be calling for assistance with other officers arriving very soon.

“This is standard practice.

“In light of the actions of Wayne Couzens it is right that police officers expect and are tolerant of those who wish to be further reassured. “They will want to explain and reassure who they are, what they are doing and why.

“If people still feel things are not quite right or you are in imminent danger you must seek assistance, if that means shouting out to another member of the public, flagging a car down or even dialling 999 then do that.”

You can find out more about Dr Sue Hills’s nationwide campaign to combat stalking and all forms of abuse against girls and women on her website here: https://www.alicerugglestrust.org/