ACTION: TWITTERSTORM WEDNESDAY 27 MAY 2020 @ 6PM (UK)

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The INTERNATIONAL NETWORK OF MIGRANTS AND ANTI-RACIST ORGANIZATIONS AND COLLECTIVES #PapersForAll demands immediate, permanent, and unconditional amnesty for all migrants and refugees at this time of a global pandemic and health emergency.   

Active in Europe, Latin America, the US and the UK – we are calling for everyone concerned with justice to join a Twitterstorm on Wednesday 27 May at 6pm to demand #PapersForAll.

In the UK up to one million undocumented destitute migrants are at risk of contracting Covid-19 but also of starvation because of the crisis created by the pandemic.

At the same time migrants have been more visible and valued than ever as essential workers — in hospitals, social care, food supply, agriculture, transport and other areas — keeping the society going. Over 17% of the social care work force and at least 40% of NHS workers in London are immigrants risking their lives to care for others. Many are the same Windrush and Commonwealth victims still fighting for their papers and compensation. And immigrant people are 63% of all those who have died within the medical profession.

Over 75% of women seeking asylum and refugees are survivors of rape and other torture.  Women, especially mothers, do the survival caring work that protects and holds together families and communities. As one woman asylum seeker said:
“Women like me were destitute and in “quarantine” long before COVID . . . we want our papers, access to accommodation and healthcare and financial security. People back in our home countries are in lock down in even worse conditions eking out a living from hand to mouth without food or running water – never mind hand sanitizer.” (Rubie, All African Women’s Group).

The current racist immigration bill under discussion will create more undocumented people and undermine people’s right to stay by removing free movement from all EU migrants.

Public pressure has won some victories:
• 75% of immigration detainees have been released, however, many have been forced into slum housing with little or no money to buy food and other essentials and where it is impossible to self-isolate or observe social distancing.
• The ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ Policy has been ruled unlawful and free school meals for children re-instated
• The surcharge non-EU NHS staff had to pay, on top of visa fees and taxes, was finally scrapped last week

We draw strength from other countries. In Spain, pressure from 900 community organisations led to all detainees being released. In Italy migrant (mostly African) farm workers are courageously striking for fair pay and papers for all. In Portugal all immigrants and asylum seekers were granted residency and full citizens’ rights during the pandemic – we want this to be permanent and global!    We have a right to be here in Britain and anywhere we want — to access health care and protection, and to reclaim the wealth that our work has created. Governments and corporations have looted our home countries, for centuries, and that theft continues today, causing war, starvation and ecological devastation.

We call on all governments and international organisations to grant #PapersForAll #RegularizacionYa to asylum seekers, those in detention and all undocumented migrants.

TAKE ACTION with the #PapersForAll Network to demand an immediate, permanent and unconditional amnesty for all migrants and refugees in this time of a global pandemic and health emergency.

1. Please sign and circulate our international statement  https://papersforall.com/

2. On Wednesday at 6pm (UK time) tweet @pritipatel @ukhomeoffice  
Example tweets:
Immigrant people are essential workers risking their health to care for others yet are denied their rights. Grant #PapersForAll #RegularizacionYa

Over a million people are undocumented in the UK and denied healthcare, housing and an income & at risk of Covid19. Grant #PapersForAll #RegularizacionYa

Download and share the images here

3. Write to Home Secretary, Priti Patel – model letter here. (Please copy to asylumfromrape@womenagainstrape.net)

4. Sign the UK petition https://www.change.org/p/prime-minister-boris-johnson-and-an-taoiseach-leo-varadkar-access-to-healthcare-housing-and-food-for-all  
Please share this action with your networks!

Contact:
Global Women Against Deportations
(a coalition of the All African Women’s Group, Legal Action for Women, Women Against Rape, Women of Colour/Global Women’s Strike) asylumfromrape@womenagainstrape.net +44 (0) 7456525227
Payday Men’s Networkpayday@paydaynet.org

COVID 19

Featured

We know this is a very difficult time for many people. We are responding to calls and emails, although it may take us a bit longer than usual. If you are suffering domestic violence or rape please call the police if it’s an emergency on 999.  You can call the 24-hour Domestic Violence helpline on 0808 2000 247 for help with urgent accommodation and other issues.

Self Help Guides for Survivors

This is a collective effort based on decades of experience of survivors and campaigners. It offers ways to tackle obstacles to justice you many face when reporting violence.

Click here to download the Self-Help Guide.

To order a paper copy, please send a cheque to ‘Women Against Rape’, PO Box 287, London NW6 5QU.
Prices: individuals £3; unfunded organisations £5; professionals or solidarity price £10. Free to women in prison.

Online Guide for Asylum Seekers and their Supporters: A Self-Help Guide Against detention & removal by Legal Action for Women: This new and updated step-by-step guide comes out of intensive work over many years with women (and some men) seeking asylum. BWRAP and WAR have contributed to the pool of practical knowledge which is an invaluable and essential tool for victims of rape and other torture. Available here.  To order a paper copy go to Crossroads Books online . Other Self-Help Tools are also available to download here

MODEL LETTER TO UK HOME SECRETARY,PRITI PATEL MP

Please add some information about yourself and the reason you are writing.

Rt. Hon Priti Patel MP
Home Office
2 Marsham Street
London, SW1P 4DF

Email: public.enquiries@homeoffice.gov.uk

Dear Ms Patel,

I am writing to demand that you grant immediate, permanent and unconditional amnesty for all migrants and refugees currently living in the UK.

This pandemic has shown how dependent the UK is on migrant as essential workers in hospitals, social care, food supply, agriculture, transport and other areas. Yet there are up to one million undocumented migrants in the UK who are destitute and therefore at greater risk of contracting Covid-19 because they are being deprived of health care, housing and even food. Living in such conditions makes it impossible for people to self-isolate and abide by government social distancing advice. People are being forced to risk their own and the community’s health.

There is growing support for immigrant people being granted the right to stay and for an amnesty from deportation. Public pressure has already led to over 75% of people being released from immigration detention, the courts ruling that the ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ Policy was illegal and most recently to your government being forced to scrap the surcharge that non-EU NHS staff have to pay.

We urge you to follow the lead given by the Portuguese and Italian governments and grant papers to all migrants currently living in the UK regardless of their immigration status, length of stay or financial situation.

Yours sincerely

DOMESTIC ABUSE BILL in Parliament today

MUST PROTECT MOTHERS and TACKLE WOMEN’S POVERTY


The Domestic Abuse Bill is debated in Parliament again today – it must help protect women’s and children’s lives.
 
The Bill introduces new Domestic Abuse Protection Orders, which should offer more protection in an emergency.  But it must go further to tackle women’s poverty and the appalling sexism mothers and children face in family courts.   

Mothers face an impossible struggle.  If we report domestic violence or if we don’t, we are blamed for harming our children by having a violent partner, even though we are victims.  Our children are taken from us, put in care or even given to the violent father.  

The family courts have allowed themselves to be used by violent fathers to continue their abuse and control.  The presumed “rights” of fathers to see their children, regardless of a history of violence, are generally prioritised over the safety and wishes of children and the efforts of mothers to protect them from harm.  

As part of the Support Not Separation Coalition which defends women and children facing the family court, we know that between 70 and 90% of cases involve domestic violence, yet only 1% of fathers are denied access to children.  Over 70% of the cases brought to us involve domestic violence, including rape.

We demand: immediate changes to family courts so women who report violence do not risk having their children taken away or given to the perpetrators.  (See our amendments to the Domestic Violence Bill.)  Implementation of Section 17 of the 1989 Children Act to keep children safe with their mothers.  Judges who refuse to apply the law must be removed – we won’t go back to the 1970s when rape in marriage was considered legal!  

Court judgements have repeated flouted the rights of children and mothers to safety and welfare, and court professionals often display shocking disregard for the basic legal protections victims have won.  Many of the mothers and children struggling against injustice are women of colour or immigrant, and/or have a disability.

    One judge repeatedly insisted a violent father, convicted for attacking the mother, be brought from prison to the family court, breaking an exclusion order from the mother’s and children’s town. No protection was available in or around the court, and the judge called her ‘pedantic’ when she asked about it. We succeeded in getting the judge removed from the case.  

Another judge ruled that the rape of a pregnant woman by her partner who woke her in her sleep was not rape even though he acknowledged the rape in a text, because she hadn’t fought him off. The judge allowed contact.  

As foster carers and contact centres are now inaccessible during the coronavirus lockdown, mothers’ contact with children who have been taken from their care has been curtailed even further, cutting children off from their mothers.  

Remote family court hearings are causing injustice and retraumatising vulnerable women.  When they are isolated on a phoneline to the court they are denied meaningful access to a lawyer (if they have one) and can’t talk to any lay supporter.  

For many women and children the lockdown and #StayAtHome directive are a like a “prison sentence” with a violent and controlling man.  Support workers and the police have reported that the murder of women has doubled [1] in the UK with at least 16 killings between 23 March and 12 April 2020, including of children. Reports of domestic violence have mushroomed all around the world. China and Spain saw a surge in calls reporting domestic violence, while police in France reported a 30% increase in domestic abuse cases.[2]  

Women around the world have been demanding emergency safety measures, including cash and housing.  In some European countries, like Spain, Italy and France, women have won new State protections, including: emergency refuge in hotels or the eviction of violent men from the home, helplines and code words to alert pharmacists to call the police.  

In the UK, the Home Secretary has said victims can leave their home despite the lockdown.  But where are they to go?  What are they to live on?  As with the protective equipment demanded by health and care workers, our survival and protection are not being prioritised.  Yesterday’s Home Affairs Committee report demands money for services.  But funding charities is not enough – women need our own money.  

A decade of austerity wiped out our financial independence and our escape routes out of violence.  Women have suffered 86% of the cuts.[3]  Benefits and social housing were slashed – a key source of independence for women.  The bedroom tax and total benefit cap hit mums and kids fleeing violence. Refuges have been cut: 1 in 6 refuges closed over the past 8 years.  Women’s Aid reported this month that even before lockdown they had to decline 64% of referrals over 2018-19.[4]  

The withdrawal of social care services leaves disabled women more at risk of abuse as we are forced to rely on family and friends who can turn abusive. Unwaged family carers are suffering domestic violence during lockdown as Council support is not provided to disabled adults with aggressive and challenging behaviour, and day centres are closed.

This is echoed in the criminal justice system’s disgraceful response to violence.  Before the virus, an average of two women a week were murdered by partners or ex-partners often after reports to police.  And despite a 40% increase in reports of rape over 2012-2018, in 2019 convictions fell to 3% – the lowest in a decade.[5]  

The anti-rape movement has won important protections over the years: ● WAR’s 15-year campaign got rape in marriage finally recognised as a crime in 1991 ● We exposed and defeated some outrageous discrimination in the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme, especially against those who were raped as children, and won thousands of pounds for individual victims ● Official recognition that rape is torture and grounds for asylum: we won the right to stay for many rape survivors seeking asylum.  

But the falling conviction rates for rape and domestic violence show that in reality the state has given violent men near total impunity.  And without financial independence our vulnerability to violence and injustice remains.  

WE DEMAND:

·     Immediate safe accommodation for women and children in emergency need. 

·     Immediate changes to the family courts as outlined above.

·     A permanent end to benefit sanctions and other punitive measures, especially to disabled and traumatised claimants. People pressing their needs during COVID-19 brought some benefit changes but Universal Credit is lower than many previous benefits it replaces, and makes women financially dependent on men. ESA which a lot of traumatised women get, has not had the £20 increase like other benefits. They must scrap the two-child limit, total benefit cap and policies which pay money to the man in the household rather than individually to the woman. Scrap the bedroom tax. Raise child benefit. All payments must be made without delay.  The welfare state must be rebuilt and expanded – we need urgent access to benefits and social housing. 

·     We support the call for a Care Income made by the Global Women’s Strike and the Green New Deal for Europe.  The virus crisis has shown how dependent society is on caring work, waged and unwaged, in the family and outside, and how women in particular care for extended families and neighbours.  For the health and protection of people and the environment to be prioritised, those already doing caring work must be compensated.  Money from the state would guarantee financial independence from men and our ability to protect ourselves and our children.  We could refuse unwanted sexual demands, and have the means to leave and to use the law.   Women fleeing or surviving after violence deserve an income for self-care and recovery, and to be there for traumatised children.

·     Thorough investigations and prosecutions by the police and Crown Prosecution Service.  The Corona Virus Act has given police free reign to arrest, fine and criminalise, and even to fine the parents of young people who leave the house.  We demand a change of priorities so that resources go into protecting women and children from violence.  We demand accountability from those charged with protecting us – those who don’t implement the law should be sacked.

·     An amnesty against deportations #Papers For All. Over 70% of women seeking asylum have fled from rape but sexism, racism and other injustice in the asylum process leaves them destitute. Sign the Open Letter to the Prime Minister of the UK and the Taoiseach of Ireland demanding  the release of all immigration detainees, free health care, and an end to destitution.    

28 April 2020  

Notes
1 Data collated by Karen Igala Smith of Nia Project. Looking at the same period over the last 10 years, data records an average of 5 deaths. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/apr/15/domestic-abuse-killings-more-than-double-amid-covid-19-lockdown 

2 https://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2020/04/08/domestic-abuse-reports-coronavirus

3 Women’s Budget Group, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/09/women-bearing-86-of-austerity-burden-labour-research-reveals

4 Women’s Aid

5 There were 58,657 complaints in the year to March, but just 1,925 of those resulted in a successful prosecution.’ https://metro.co.uk/2019/12/17/anger-police-just-3-rape-cases-lead-conviction-11918901/

CORONAVIRUS AND VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND CHILDREN: WE DEMAND THE RESOURCES TO ENSURE SAFETY AND PROTECTION

This coronavirus crisis comes on top of the rape and domestic violence crisis and the austerity crisis.

For many women and children the lockdown and #StayAtHome directive are a like a “prison sentence” with a violent and controlling man.  Support workers and the police have reported that the murder of women has doubled [1]in the UK with at least 16 killings between 23 March and 12 April 2020, including of children. Reports of domestic violence have mushroomed all around the world. China and Spain saw a surge in calls reporting domestic violence, while police in France reported a 30% increase in domestic abuse cases.[2]

In the UK, the Home Secretary has said victims can leave their home despite the lockdown.  But where are they to go?  What are they to live on?  As with the protective equipment demanded by health and care workers, our survival and protection are not being prioritised.

A decade of austerity wiped out our financial independence and our escape routes out of violence.  Women have suffered 86% of the cuts.[3]  Benefits and social housing were slashed – a key source of independence for women.  Refuges have been cut: 1 in 6 refuges closed over the past 8 years.  Women’s Aid reported this month that before lockdown, they had to decline 64% of referrals in 2018-19.[4]

The withdrawal of social care services leaves disabled women more at risk of abuse as we are forced to rely on family and friends who can turn abusive. Unwaged family carers are suffering domestic violence during lockdown as Council support is not provided to disabled adults with aggressive and challenging behaviour, and day centres are closed.

This is echoed in the criminal justice system’s disgraceful response to violence.  Before the virus, an average of two women a week were murdered by partners or ex-partners often after reports to police.  And despite a 40% increase in reports of rape over 2012-2018, in 2019 convictions fell to 3% – the lowest in a decade.[5]

Mothers in particular face an impossible struggle.  If we report domestic violence or if we don’t, we are blamed for harming our children by having a violent partner, even though we are victims.  Our children are taken from us, put in care or even given to the violent father.

The family courts have allowed themselves to be used by violent fathers to continue their abuse and control.  The presumed “rights” of fathers to see their children, regardless of a history of violence, are generally prioritised over the safety and wishes of children and the efforts of mothers to protect them from harm.

As part of the Support Not Separation Coalition which defends women and children facing the family court, we know that between 70 and 90% of cases involve domestic violence, yet only 1% of fathers are denied access to children.  Over 70% of the cases brought to us involve domestic violence, including rape.  Court judgements have repeated flouted the rights of children and mothers to safety and welfare, and court professionals often display shocking disregard for the basic legal protections victims have won.  Many of the mothers and children struggling against injustice are women of colour or immigrant, and/or have a disability.  

One judge repeatedly insisted a violent father, convicted for attacking the mother, be brought from prison to the family court, breaking an exclusion order from the mother’s and children’s town. No protection was available in or around the court, and the judge called her ‘pedantic’ when she asked about it. We succeeded in getting the judge removed from the case.

Another judge ruled that the rape of a pregnant woman by her partner who woke her in her sleep was not rape even though he acknowledged the rape in a text, because she hadn’t fought him off. The judge allowed contact.

As foster carers and contact centres are inaccessible during the lockdown, mothers’ contact with children who have been taken from their care has been curtailed even further, cutting children off from their mothers.

The anti-rape movement has won important protections over the years: ● WAR’s 15-year campaign got rape in marriage finally recognised as a crime in 1991 ● We exposed and defeated some outrageous discrimination in the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme, especially against those who were raped as children, and won thousands of pounds for individual victims ● Official recognition that rape is torture and grounds for asylum: we won the right to stay for many rape survivors seeking asylum.

But the falling conviction rates for rape and domestic violence show that in reality the state has given violent men near total impunity.  And without financial independence our vulnerability to violence and injustice remains.

WE DEMAND:

Immediate safe accommodation for women and children in emergency need.  

Support for disabled children and disabled mothers entitled to care and childcare help under the Care Act (made discretionary by the Coronavirus Act).

Immediate changes to the family courts so women who report violence do not risk having their children taken away or given to the perpetrators.  (See our amendments on this to the Domestic Violence Bill which is going through Parliament now – the Bill must go further to protect us.)  Implementation of Section 17 of the 1989 Children Act to keep children safe with their mothers.  Judges who refuse to apply the law must be removed – we won’t go back to the 1970s when rape in marriage was considered legal!

A permanent end to benefit sanctions and other punitive measures, especially to disabled and traumatised claimants.  People pressing their needs during COVID-19 brought some benefit changes but Universal Credit is lower than many previous benefits it replaces, and makes women financial dependent on men. ESA which a lot of traumatised women get, has not had the £20 increase like other benefits. They must Scrap the two-child limit, total benefit cap and policies which pay money to the man in the household rather than individually to the woman. Scrap the Bedroom Tax. Raise Child Benefit. All payments must be made without delay.  The welfare state must be rebuilt and expanded – we need urgent access to benefits and social housing. 

We support the call for a Care Income made by the Global Women’s Strike and the Green New Deal for Europe.  The virus crisis has shown how dependent society is on caring work, waged and unwaged, in the family and outside, and how women in particular care for extended families and neighbours.  For the health and protection of people and the environment to be prioritised, those already doing caring work must be compensated.  Money from the state would guarantee financial independence from men and our ability to protect ourselves and our children.  We could refuse unwanted sexual demands, and have the means to leave and to use the law.  Women fleeing or surviving violence deserve an income for self-care and recovery, and to be there for tramatised children.

Thorough investigations and prosecutions by the police and Crown Prosecution Service.  The Coronavirus Act has given police free rein to arrest, fine and criminalise, and even to fine the parents of young people who leave the house.  We demand a change of priorities so that resources go into protecting women and children from violence.  We demand accountability from those charged with protecting us – those who don’t implement the law should be sacked.

An amnesty against deportations #Papers For All. Over 70% of women seeking asylum have fled from rape but sexism, racism and other injustice in the asylum process leaves them destitute. Sign the Open Letter to the Prime Minister of the UK and the Taoiseach of Ireland demanding  the release of all immigration detainees, free health care, and an end to destitution.

30 April 2020

Notes

1 Data collated by Karen Igala Smith of Nia Project. Looking at the same period over the last 10 years, data records an average of 5 deaths. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/apr/15/domestic-abuse-killings-more-than-double-amid-covid-19-lockdown 

2 https://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2020/04/08/domestic-abuse-reports-coronavirus

3 Women’s Budget Group, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/09/women-bearing-86-of-austerity-burden-labour-research-reveals

4 Women’s Aid, 2020

5 There were 58,657 complaints in the year to March, but just 1,925 of those resulted in a successful prosecution.’ https://metro.co.uk/2019/12/17/anger-police-just-3-rape-cases-lead-conviction-11918901/

Domestic Abuse Bill: AMENDMENTS from Black Women’s Rape Action Project & Women Against Rape, part of the Support not Separation coalition

On family courts –

Insert new clauses into Part 3: Family Proceedings following Clause 75 on cross examination:

  • Remove Section 11 (2A) of the Children and Families Act 2014 which presumes that it is always in a child’s best interest to have contact with both parents. 

RATIONALE: This has resulted in a presumption of contact for fathers regardless of any history of rape and/or Domestic Abuse. For the welfare of children to be paramount, their safety and the safety of the mother, who is usually the primary carer, must be prioritised over father’s residence and contact. Fathers who are violent to their children or their partners should not have contact with their children. Thousands of children are being harmed physically and psychologically by being forced into contact with fathers they are terrified of.  

  • Reduce the threshold of official evidence required when domestic violence is raised as an issue in the family courts.

    RATIONALE: Evidence must include reports to GP, midwife, counsellor, etc., as well as non-molestation and/or occupation order. This is even more crucial now that the level of convictions for rape and DA are at an all-time low and violent men have near impunity from prosecution. The majority of victims do not report domestic abuse or rape to the police and when they do they can expect little or no protection.

  • Remove Clause 120 in the Adoption & Children Act 2002 which extended the definition of significant harm (Children Act 1989) to include “impairment suffered from seeing or hearing the ill-treatment of another”. 

RATIONALE: This addition to the definition of significant harm was meant to protect children. It has instead been used to take children from mothers who are victims of DA, further victimising the child and the mother instead of providing the help and support they need to leave violent men. It is unbearably cruel and discriminatory. DA has become the most common reason to remove children from their mother, thus isolating children from their only protector. Violent men know this and taunt telling them, ‘Go ahead and report me and they’ll take the kids from you.’ There is evidence from the US, and we must look for evidence here, that separation from one’s mother causes more serious harm than witnessing DA. For this reason, the New York courts have ruled that children should not be removed from mothers who are victims of DA.

  • End the use of ‘parental alienation’ to remove children from their mothers. Ensure that courts take seriously children’s allegations of sexual abuse by fathers.  

RATIONALE: Children and mothers who make accusations of violence are disbelieved or dismissed even when these incidents have been reported to the police or others in authority and despite evidence of how pervasive DA is.

Mothers are routinely accused of poisoning their children’s minds when they report what the children are telling them. It is horrifying that mothers are instructed by the court to force their children, whom they know are being abused, often sexually, to have contact with the man who is abusing them. The law is supposed to protect children not rapists. Mothers who defy the court in order to protect their children risk having their children taken from them and left without protection. As a result, mothers are increasingly wary of mentioning DA.

‘Parental alienation’ is the discredited theory of Dr Richard A Gardner, a US misogynist psychiatrist who dismissed domestic abuse and defended paedophilia. It is shocking that CAFCASS which was created to protect children is using this. It shows the impact that organisations of domestic abuse deniers have had on the family courts.

  • Prioritise implementation of Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 so that resources are made available to mothers and children facing domestic abuse, in particular access to benefits and housing, without which many women are trapped with violent men.

RATIONALE: Section 17 exists to help ensure that children are raised by their family and therefore provides for local authorities to use their resources to keep children within the family. But it is not being implemented. This is particularly outrageous given that austerity policies have targeted single mother families: over 4 million children are living in poverty, single mothers are 75% of those affected by Universal Credit, and 86% of austerity cuts have been borne by women. Section 17 is needed more than ever and could make a massive difference to DA victims. Instead huge amounts of money are spent wrenching screaming children from their mothers’ arms, causing significant and lifelong harm. An increasingly privatised industry is profiting from the pain of children and mothers. This must stop and the original purpose of the law must be adhered to.

  • Open the family courts to public scrutiny. 

RATIONALE: End the secrecy which has shielded the family courts from public scrutiny, and delayed the introduction of protections the women’s movement won in other civil and criminal courts. Transparency can be safely introduced with reference to the law protecting the anonymity of victims of sexual offences under the Sexual Offences Amendment Act 1994. The same should be done in the family courts. In many US states family courts are open and this has not been detrimental to children.

INSERT in Part 3, Section 31W:

  • Reinstate legal aid in family cases, so that women are not forced to represent themselves.
  •  Implement Practice Direction 12j and 3AA. Do risk assessments and findings of fact whenever violence is an issue.

Proposed amendments to other parts of the Bill

INSERT in Part 1 Chapter 3, in orderto improve protection by the criminal justice system and civil courts:

  • The police should prioritise investigating crimes of violence against women over minor offences they suspect women of committing.
  • The police should arrest, charge and prosecute violent men, especially when they commit a second or third offence.

This is urgent as the rape and DA conviction rates are at rock bottom granting violent men impunity from prosecution.

Community Resolutions or Out of Court Resolutions are not appropriate for a violent crime and are dangerous.

To make police officers more accountable, take disciplinary action if a woman is murdered after repeated calls to police for help and protection.

  • End the hostile environment for immigrant women: stop women being detained and/or deported when they report DA.
  • End domestic abuse being classed as an either way offence, which results in many cases being closed after 6 months.
  • Make it easier for women to get a non-molestation order (e.g. abolish the costs) and routinely add power of arrest.

DELETE in PART 1, Ch. 4, section 54, section on polygraph conditions:

  • Delete the clause on lie detector tests, which are notoriously unreliable.

INSERT IN PART 1, Ch. 4, section 54:

  • Provide protection from the offender when he is released from prison.

INSERT in PART 1, Chapter 4, Section 56, Clause 1 where the Bill refers to housing (keeping a lifetime council tenancy).

  • Economic abuse and economic independence.
    The Bill includes economic abuse in the definition of Domestic Abuse, but to tackle economic abuse thoroughly, the Bill must also enable a woman’s economic independence from men, regardless of her social class, so that she can leave a violent man. The government must properly fund women’s vital escape routes beginning with: welfare benefits, social housing, and refuges.  

July 2019

AMNESTY FROM DEPORTATION, ACCESS TO HEALTH, HOUSING AND FOOD

SIGN THE PETITION HERE

An Open Letter to the Prime Minister of the UK and the Taoiseach of Ireland

cc:   UK Home Secretary and UK Health Secretary,
Irish Health Secretary and Irish Minister for Justice and Equality,
All UK MPs, All Members of the Irish Parliament (the Oireachtas),
All Leaders and CEOs of Local Authorities and Health Services in the UK, All CEOs of Councils and Health Services in Ireland, Professor Neil Ferguson, Imperial College, London, Dr. Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer, Ireland, Prof Ruairi Brugha, Professor of Public Health and Epidemiology, Ireland

27th March 2020

Dear Sirs

RE: ACCESS TO HEALTHCARE, HOUSING AND FOOD FOR ALL

We call upon the British and Irish States to act immediately so that all undocumented, destitute and migrant people in the legal process in both the UK and Ireland are granted Status Now, as in Leave to Remain.  In this way every human, irrespective of their nationality or citizenship can access healthcare, housing, food and the same sources of income from the State as everyone else.  

Everyone has the right to be in an environment where they can follow the Public Health directives necessary to limit COVID19 viral transmission to the absolute minimum and to care for themselves, their loved ones and their living and working communities.

It is imperative – being in everyone’s best interests – that the basic needs of all are met.

People living in extreme poverty and/or destitution and/or without immigration status in the UK or Ireland and/or without access to the NHS or the Irish Health System:

•             Are unable to socially isolate as needed
•             Cannot access health care, and income and other social support
•             Cannot contribute openly and without fear, to making the population as safe as possible, alongside everyone else. 

Key Points
–              Currently, migrant people who are in the legal system cannot keep physically safe on their allowances, because those allowances don’t amount to enough money to eat healthily, or buy and apply appropriate cleaning materials, and many are living in accommodation where they cannot socially isolate as they may want and need to.

–              People who are destitute and/or undocumented and living in the shadows fear what will happen to them if they identify themselves, cannot access healthcare, emergency shelter and food, nor report or seek protection from domestic violence, rape, exploitation and other abuses – levels of which are already rising.

Please direct your responses, as a matter of urgency obviously, to admin@rapar.org.uk

Yours sincerely,

All African Women’s Group
ATD Fourth World
BASW Cymru – British Association of Social Workers, Cymru
BFAWU – Bakers’, Food & Allied Workers Union
Black Women’s Rape Action Project
Comhlamh
Commonword/Cultureword
DocsNotCops
Doncaster Conversation Club
DPAC – Disabled People Against Cuts
EYST Wales – Ethnic Minorities and Youth Support Team, Wales
GDWG – Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group
Haringey Welcome
Highly Skilled Migrants UK
Legal Action for Women
Lichfield City of Sanctuary
Lichfield Refugee Aid
Lichfield Quaker Meeting
Manchester City of Sanctuary
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(Preliminary Signatories)

Secret policy change by CPS cut number of rape trials, high court told

Application on behalf of women’s group follows concern over fall in number of charges

Owen Bowcott and Caelainn Barr  The Guardian  Tue 17 Mar 2020

legal challenge over alleged changes to Crown Prosecution Service policy on bringing charges in rape cases has been dismissed by the high court.

The judges, Dame Victoria Sharp, president of the Queen’s Bench Division, and Lord Justice Singh, denied permission for the case to proceed to a full hearing on Tuesday.

The challenge by a coalition of victims’ organisation sought to prove that the CPS had raised the bar for charging suspects in rape cases.

The high court heard arguments that there had been a “precipitous drop” in the number of rape cases brought to trial due to a secret and unlawful change in policy adopted by the CPS.

The CPS adopted an internal conviction rate target of 60% of cases charged and became increasingly risk averse although it consulted with no one outside the organisation about the new approach, Phillippa Kaufmann QC told judges.

Her application on behalf of the End Violence Against Women Coalition follows concern over steep falls in rape charges and convictions in recent years at a time when an increasing number of women have been making rape complaints to police.

“This change [in policy] was brought about in secrecy and no one was told even afterwards,” Kaufmann told the court.

The changes were introduced from late 2016 after an internal review by the CPS’s director of legal services, Gregor McGill, it was alleged.

It resulted in refresher training of prosecutors that in effect abandoned the established policy of a what is known as a “merits-based approach” to assessing whether to charge suspects in rape cases, Kaufmann said.

“The easiest way to [raise the conviction rate],” she added, “is to whip out those cases that are a bit weaker … No one knew about it until it was leaked by an individual inside the CPS.”

The consequence, Kaufmann said, was that some prosecutors reverted what had been known as the bookmakers’ approach – guessing the probability of a jury convicting on the evidence and becoming reluctant to press ahead with more difficult rape cases.

But the CPS, which successfully, resisted the challenge, argued that courts should not become “an arbiter of prosecutorial policy”.

In written submissions, lawyer for the director of public prosecutions (DPP), Max Hill QC, said it was factually wrong to allege that prosecutors have now adopted a “bookmaker’s test” approach.

The CPS maintained that the courts should dismiss the claim at this preliminary stage and not proceed to a full judicial review of the arguments.

“There has not been a change in policy,” Tom Little QC, for the DPP, told the court. “The fall on conviction rates is due to a far wider range of factors involving the police that are now the subject of a government review.”

Rape victims who donated to the legal challenge, because they felt failed by the CPS, are set to see their donations go towards the institution’s legal costs.

The CPS is pursuing legal costs against the women’s rights’ charity the End Violence Against Women Coalition, and asked for a request to cap legal costs to be denied. The CPS were awarded £35,000 – £41, 000 in legal costs by judges ruling on the request for a judicial review into the claims.

The coalition’s director, Sarah Green, said: “We have no regrets about bringing this case. It was the right thing to do, and it was entirely necessary to challenge our justice system institutions when they are failing to keep women safe and deliver access to justice.

“We have been approached by so many women who have been let down by the CPS as we prepared this case. We know there are really serious problems. But instead of working with us, the CPS chose to fight us.

“It is a long way from the kind of leadership we need in our public institutions … The CPS is arguably failing to keep with the times on expectations for justice after sexual violence. The situation as it is cannot hold, it amounts to the effective decriminalisation of rape.”

The charity received hundreds of donations, many for £10 and £20, via a crowd justice campaign ahead of the hearing. Many messages left with the donations were from women who said they had been raped but denied justice. One donor wrote: “Having been through the system myself and being failed on every level I so wish you every success.” Under the anonymous donation of £10, someone simply wrote: “I never got justice.”

The legal challenge also received £10,000 from the family of Jill Saward, the Ealing rape victim who became a leading figure in the fight against sexual violence.

Harriet Wistrich, director of the Centre for Women’s Justice, who supported the claim, said: “We are deeply, deeply disappointed that [the judges] didn’t see there was a basis on which the case arguable.

“We feel they were just not prepared to grapple with all the detail and ultimately they saw it as a factual dispute. The court was not prepared to get involved.”

Wistrich said they were considering appealing against the ruling at the court of appeal. “We don’t see this as a loss because we think we won in the court of public opinion.”

On the heavy costs of £41,000 imposed on the claimants, she added: “ It’s astounding that the CPS have pushed for as much in costs against a small women’s charity.”

NEWS FLASH: Victory after living for 17 years in limbo!

Ms O from Cote D’Ivoire – announces today 3 March 2020 that she has finally won refugee status.

Speaking at today’s self-help session (which BWRAP helps coordinate) Ms O described how the immigration judge at her appeal hearing intervened to stop the Home Office barrister from putting intrusive and upsetting questions to her about her experiences.

One of the French-speaking sisters in the session translated for her – “I hardly knew what was happening in the hearing because when the Home Office started interrogating me I broke down with my hands in my head. The judge was so angry and told them to stop. Last week I got a call from my barrister who confirmed I can finally stay here – I’m so happy after living so many years destitute and suffering terrible things here in the UK too. I thank everyone for their support over all these years“.

Ms O’s victory is the latest in a series of fantastic successes at Appeal by women using our collective self-help support overturning racist and sexist decisions in the Home Office’s hostile environment.

Come to the Crossroads Women’s Centre International Women’s Day event to find out more about our work and how you can get involved. . .