Women-only train carriages could be used to tackle sexual assaults, male MP says

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The introduction of women-only train carriages could combat the rise in sexual offences on public transport, a Labour MP has said.

Chris Williamson said it would be “worth consulting” on the policy after figures revealed such crimes doubled in the last five years.

The shadow fire minister said they could create a “safe space”, but Labour colleagues criticised the move as “normalising attacks” and a “terrible idea”. 

Speaking to PoliticsHome, the Derby North MP said: “It would be worth consulting about it. It was pooh-poohed [when Jeremy Corbyn suggested it], but these statistics seem to indicate there is some merit in examining that.

“Complemented with having more guards on trains, it would be a way of combating these attacks, which have seen a very worrying increase in the past few years.

“I’m not saying it has to happen, but it may create a safe space. It would be a matter of personal choice whether someone wanted to make use of it.”

Labour leader Mr Corbyn first suggested the policy during his leadership campaign in 2015, but it was dropped two years ago after receiving criticism from senior party members.

And the renewed calls have again been attacked, with Labour MP Stella Creasy saying: “Can we make all carriages safe for all passengers rather than restricting where we can go?”

In a thread of Twitter posts, the Walthamstow MP added: “Doesn’t keep women safe to restrict their movements-it normalises attacks. We need to be clear they are problem, not women’s seating plans.”

And Jess Phillips, Labour MP for Birmingham and Yardley, responded by writing: “Absolutely terrible idea. It is essentially giving up on trying to prosecute assaults.”

She added: “Sexual violence isn’t about urges, it’s about power. If you take your feminist cues from Saudi Arabia, you’ve gone wrong.”

In June the Standard revealed that violent and sexual offences on London’s rail network rose by almost 1,000 last year, with more than 16 incidents per day.

According to figures obtained under Freedom of Information rules, there were 6,057 violent and sexual offences on the capital’s railways, tube trains and stations in 2016, compared to 5,137 the year before.

Some 1,448 sex offences were reported in 2016/17, compared with 650 incidents in 2012/2013, British Transport Police figures show.

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