An influential cross-party panel of MPs and peers have launched an inquiry to investigate what can be done to reduce arrests of women in England and Wales.
The inquiry by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Women in the Penal System (APPG) will be aimed at encouraging and enabling police forces to prevent women being drawn into the criminal justice system unnecessarily.
About 15 per cent of those arrested by police are women. Police forces in England and Wales arrested 103,000 women between April 2017 and March 2018.
The inquiry will look into how women with complex needs can be diverted to more appropriate services, such as women’s centres, prior to arrest. Making fewer arrests would lead to fewer women being prosecuted, sentenced and imprisoned.
Kate Green, Co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Women in the Penal System, said: “In my time as a magistrate and as an MP, I have seen many cases where women have been brought into the criminal justice system unnecessarily. But, as a Manchester MP, I have also seen how women-specific services can divert women away from the criminal justice system by giving them holistic support.
“As the APPG marks its tenth anniversary, we want to explore how we can build on the work in Greater Manchester and on the success led by the APPG in reducing arrests of girls, and do the same for women.”
Victoria Prentis, Co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Women in the Penal System, said: “Our inquiry will investigate how women with complex needs can be diverted to other services, such as women’s centres, which we know are effective, instead of being dragged further into the criminal justice system.”
At the inquiry’s first oral evidence session, MPs and peers heard from Katie Kempen, Chief Executive of the Independent Custody Visiting Association, and Superintendent Stan Gilmour of Thames Valley Police. Submissions of written evidence will be invited in due course.
The new inquiry follows a 10-month probe by the APPG into the sentencing of women, which found that many women were being sent to prison unnecessarily – in spite of overwhelming evidence that prison makes matters worse for them.
The All Party Parliamentary Group for Women in the Penal System (APPG) was set up in July 2009, with Baroness Corston as Chair and administrative support from the Howard League for Penal Reform. Today, it is co-chaired by Baroness Corston, Kate Green MP and Victoria Prentis MP.
- Read the APPG report Sentencers and sentenced: exploring knowledge, agency and sentencing women to prison here
- Howard League for Penal Reform https://howardleague.org/