Pestering women in the street or in pubs and making lewd comments at them could become an offence under plans to criminalise “public sexual harassment”, which are set to be announced next week.
A government-commissioned review of hate crimes will call for public sexual harassment and inciting hatred against women to be made criminal offences as part of an overhaul of laws to protect women and girls against violence.
But the review by the Law Commission – the body responsible for framing hundreds of the UK’s laws – will reject demands for misogyny to be made a hate crime because it believes it would be ineffective, according to Whitehall sources.
The new offence of public sexual harassment is seen as a more effective way of protecting women against violence than classing misogyny as a hate crime alongside race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or transgender identity, Whitehall sources have said.
The Law Commission also decided it could make it harder to prosecute crimes such as domestic abuse and would create two-tier sentencing, depending on whether a sexual offence was shown to be a hate crime.
The move will be part of a week of government crime announcements, which include a crackdown on drug gangs, a new law to put victims at the heart of the criminal justice system, and prison reforms to reduce reoffending by getting more inmates into work.
A Whitehall source said: “The Law Commission is not going to class misogyny as a hate crime because it would be ineffective and in some cases counterproductive.
“But it will call for a public sexual harassment offence, which doesn’t currently exist. It thinks this fits with other work the Government is doing on criminalising intimate image abuse and will be more productive and better in protecting women.”
The Law Commission review of hate crimes was ordered three years ago by Sajid Javid, then Home Secretary.
It has since become even more important following the kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard by Wayne Couzens, a serving Metropolitan Police officer, which sparked a huge national debate on violence against women.