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Forty years after the Ripper, women still aren’t safe In Leeds, the police prioritise 'managed misogyny' over locking up predators

Holbeck, Leeds: the only 'managed' zone for prostitution in the UK. Credit: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Holbeck, Leeds: the only 'managed' zone for prostitution in the UK. Credit: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images


November 17, 2020   7 mins

It was 40 years ago today that Jacqueline Hill took a bus home to her hall of residence in Leeds. She was 20 and in the third year of an English degree. She was returning home from the city centre, and it was only a short walk from the bus stop to where she lived on Alma Road, Headingley. She would have been wary. For more than five years, a serial killer had been terrorising women in the North of England, slashing and mutilating his victims. Five of his 12 fatal attacks had been in Leeds, along with several brutal assaults. The police seemed clueless, and women were anxious.

It wasn’t that late when Jacqueline got off the bus. At 9.23pm on 17 November, she crossed a busy main road, not realising she had been spotted by Peter Sutcliffe, a 34-year-old lorry driver. Sutcliffe later told the police that he had just finished eating a portion of fried chicken in his Rover when he saw her. “I decided she was a likely victim,” he said.

She was only 100 yards from safety when he drove past, parked his car and hit her on the head with a hammer. He dragged her into a lane that led to some rough ground, struck her again but paused when he heard someone walking past. Then he returned to the attack, using a screwdriver to slash and stab her several times. Jacqueline had just become the final victim of the man known as the Yorkshire Ripper.

A week ago, a women’s group, Leeds Spinners, placed a plaque close to where Jacqueline died. It bears an inscription that tries to fill in the character of a young woman most of us only know, if at all, as a victim of one of this country’s worst serial killers. The gesture gained extra poignancy when Sutcliffe’s death at the age of 74 was announced on Friday. He outlived his last victim by almost exactly four decades.

Jacqueline Hill, the thirteenth victim of Peter Sutcliffe. Credit: Daily Mirror/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images

Rage at the incompetence of West Yorkshire police lives on, though. Sutcliffe was careless, leaving so much evidence that he was interviewed by detectives on nine occasions — but never once put on an identity parade or arrested in connection with the murders by the Ripper squad.

After Sutcliffe’s death, West Yorkshire’s current Chief Constable, John Robins, made a belated apology for mistakes in the inquiry. But even then he couldn’t resist a whinge. He complained that the hard work of bringing the Ripper to justice had been overshadowed by the language used by the upper ranks, who had described women as pawns and seemed to belittle the death of prostitutes.

Robins’s apology was all very well, but his force didn’t bring Sutcliffe to justice. The arrest was made in Sheffield in January 1981 by a traffic patrol from South Yorkshire, who were suspicious about the stolen number plates crudely taped to his car. And it’s not as though the language used by senior officers in the 1970s was incidental to the conduct of the investigation. On the contrary, it reflected a deep-seated misogyny that led to indefensible judgements about the victims and persuaded senior officers to doubt — and in some instances ignore — crucial evidence. To put it bluntly, some of the early victims, while definitely not involved in prostitution, didn’t meet West Yorkshire police’s exacting standards for female conduct. One woman had a black boyfriend! Another went to the pub without her husband!

From early on in the case, detectives and the press wrongly assumed that the killer’s motive was a hatred of prostituted women. It didn’t bear a moment’s scrutiny: the first four attacks, all in the second half of 1975, had nothing to do with women who were selling sex. It did, however, appeal to the detective in charge of the inquiry, Assistant Chief Constable George Oldfield, who was convinced he was hot on the heels of a latter-day Jack the Ripper. He overlooked the fact that Sutcliffe’s first three victims, who all survived, were attacked in quiet residential streets and a country lane nowhere near Leeds’s red light district. One was a 14-year-old schoolgirl, Tracey Browne, who provided a photofit of her attacker that turned out to closely resemble Sutcliffe. But detectives decided she was too young and had been in the wrong place to belong in the series, thus ruling out a vital piece of evidence.

Another early victim, 46-year-old Olive Smelt from Halifax, also offered crucial testimony. She encountered Sutcliffe twice on the night of the assault in August 1975 — first in a pub, where he made an obscene remark, and later when he spotted her on his way home. Sutcliffe stopped his car and spoke to her again before striking her twice on the head with a hammer. He was slashing her buttocks when a passing car scared him off. Mrs Smelt described her attacker as around 30, with dark hair and a beard. She was also certain that he had a local accent. Sutcliffe was 29 at the time and matched her description closely.

Unfortunately, detectives were sceptical about Mrs Smelt’s value as a witness. In a secret report summarising the murders, she was dismissed in astonishingly pejorative language: “She is of loose morals,” the report declared, adding that “it was her usual custom … to visit public houses in Halifax on her own”. What detectives really believed about Mrs Smelt was revealed in a slip by then Chief Constable, Ronald Gregory, who described her in a newspaper article as “a prostitute”. It fitted the “prostitute killer” narrative and damaged Mrs Smelt’s credibility in the eyes of the inquiry, even though it had nothing to do with reality.

Sutcliffe’s fourth victim, and the first to be killed, was 28-year-old Wilma McCann, a mother of four. She was not involved in prostitution either. But Sutcliffe was tired of having his attempts to kill women interrupted and he targeted her in Chapeltown, a red-light area in Leeds where kerb crawlers didn’t attract attention. His fifth victim, 42-year-old Emily Jackson, whom he attacked in January 1976, was selling sex in Chapeltown as a result of a family financial crisis. Sutcliffe had realised prostituted women were easier targets, desperate for money and willing to get into his car. Mrs Jackson was the second woman to die, and her injuries were horrific.

By the following year, evidence that should have led to Sutcliffe was mounting up. In October 1977 he made his biggest mistake, leaving a brand-new ÂŁ5 note in the bag of one of his two Manchester victims. In a rare piece of effective detective work, officers traced it to a consignment of notes that had gone to a small number of firms in West Yorkshire, one of which employed Sutcliffe. He was convinced the game was up, but the line of inquiry petered out. Even so, Sutcliffe was a local man with a Yorkshire accent, his appearance matched photofits produced by another surviving victim, Marilyn Moore, and his car had been spotted in red light districts hundreds of times.

Yet when a junior detective, DC Andy Laptew, interviewed him as part of the ÂŁ5 note inquiry and suggested that Sutcliffe deserved further investigation, Oldfield banged the table with his fist. “Peter Sutcliffe is not the Yorkshire Ripper,” he shouted, threatening anyone who disagreed with a return to traffic duties. There was a reason for Oldfield’s bizarre behaviour, though not a good one. Increasingly desperate about his failure to catch the killer, Oldfield was easy prey for an amateurish hoaxer who sent him anonymous letters and a tape. The man had a distinctive Wearside accent, something none of the survivors had described — but hey, what did they know? I questioned the tape’s authenticity when I first heard it but it flattered Oldfield, addressing him personally and reinforcing his ideas about the killer’s motives.

In the summer of 1979, he decided to ignore the surviving victims, with their regrettable personal habits, and release the tape to the public. West Yorkshire police wasted £1m on a publicity campaign, asking people to look out for a killer with a North-East accent. In Halifax, Olive Smelt was outraged; she told me so when I interviewed her after Jacqueline’s murder in 1980. But a floundering investigation had taken a catastrophic turn and three more women — Jacqueline, Barbara Leach and Marguerite Walls — would die as a result.

West Yorkshire police’s apology has come too late for Mrs Smelt, who died in 2011. But I’m troubled by Robins’s claims about modern policing, not least the idea that misogynist attitudes have been “consigned to history”. It is true that police forces have better technology than they did in the 1970s, but I see no end to victim-blaming. The “short skirt” defence in rape cases has been replaced by a “digital strip search”, where victims are asked to hand over medical records, school reports and mobile phones, allowing detectives to access intimate photos and messages.

The result is evident in crime statistics: around 55,000 women report a rape to the police in England and Wales each year, but there were only 1,439 convictions in 2019-20. Victims are still being discredited and having their stories disbelieved; it’s more sophisticated than West Yorkshire police’s division of Sutcliffe’s victims into “innocent girls” and the rest, but the underlying impulse is pretty much the same. The situation is so dire that the Victims’ Commissioner, Dame Vera Baird, has argued that rape is being decriminalised.

In Leeds itself, women challenge Robins’s assertion that policing is now “wholly victim-focused”, ensuring that “those harmed by crime are at the heart of what we do”. His force operates the controversial “managed approach” to prostitution, allowing men to kerb crawl in Holbeck, a light industrial area to the south of the city centre, without fear of arrest — as long as they stick to certain hours. It didn’t prevent the murder of a young Polish woman, Daria Pionko, who was kicked to death in Holbeck by a sex buyer in 2015.

The commercial sex trade always attracts predators, putting women who sell sex at risk, while local women say they are pestered for sex while out shopping or on their way to work. Last week a local headmaster, Ben Mallinson told the BBC he was afraid one of his female pupils would be abducted by men looking for sex, as several had already been propositioned. Holbeck is only four or five miles from Headingley, where Jacqueline Hill was murdered by a man who hated women, yet it now seems to be operating as a “managed misogyny” zone.

It has been painfully clear for a long time that Hill’s death and those of other women could have been avoided if West Yorkshire police had put aside their prejudices and listened to Sutcliffe’s surviving victims. On this tragic anniversary, it is hard not to think of everything Jacqueline might have done in those four lost decades: the friends she would have made, the career she might have have followed, and the children she could have had.

It is also hard to contemplate the fact that women in Leeds and other parts of the country still don’t feel safe from predators, let down by a criminal justice system that seems incapable of locking up violent men. Misogyny is as entrenched as ever — and I’m as angry now as I was when Jacqueline was murdered all those years ago.


Joan Smith is a novelist and columnist. She has been Chair of the Mayor of London’s Violence Against Women and Girls Board since 2013. Her book Homegrown: How Domestic Violence Turns Men Into Terrorists was published in 2019.

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Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago

Sometimes coming to terms with reality takes a lifetime, some people never do.
Life is dangerous, there are bad people, damaged people out there who may hurt you if they get the chance.
Men and Women are different, physically men are stronger than women, on average they have 26 lbs more skeletal muscle mass than women, and on average women have 40% less upper body strength and 33% less lower body strength than men.
This power and force that men have has built our material world; buildings, roads, dykes, canals, railways, tunnels, bridges, ships, trains, cars, aeroplanes, hospitals, cathedrals and farms. Some of the men who built this world were bad and dangerous, that’s the way it is.

Good and decent men know well how dangerous bad men can be, approximately twice as many men are killed each year than women (2018 – 19 UK, 429 men killed, 241 women killed), they know most women don’t stand a chance against bad men and so they have put, or rather had put social systems in place to protect women as much as it is possible to do.
It is easy to look back with hindsight and see the mistakes that were made when dealing with serial killers, whether that is Sutcliffe, Shipman or Nilsen, but it is impossible to predict when a moderately bad man may suddenly turn, take advantage of a situation and kill. Human error is always with us and always will be.
That is why it is important for women to play their part, take care, be responsible as much as they are able. It’s fashionable to behave as if the world is your oyster and you should be able to do what ever you like, but that is NOT reality. You need to face up to the facts and don’t blame all men for the actions of a few.

andrey.doronins
andrey.doronins
3 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

Largely agree.

Few would argue that leaving your car unlocked with valuables inside in a bad neighborhood is a good idea. If (when) it gets stolen – that is still a punishable crime, but most would (hopefully) argue that basic due diligence was not exercised and the person exposed their property to unnecessary danger.

Similar logic could be applied to physical violence – doesn’t matter if you are a man or a woman, if you’re alone and drunk out of your senses on a Friday night, do know that you’re exposing yourself. You never deserve being assaulted, surely, but you’ve exposed yourself. And as you’ve rightly stated – bad people do exist, and they’re not going away anytime soon, so do exercise due diligence. Sometimes, of course, no amount of safety precautions can protect you. S**t happens and I’m sorry it does.

Some refuse to apply the same logic to both scenarios, because one case is much more emotionally charged than the other (stolen car vs. assault), and so logic is thrown out.

I do wish to live in a society where I, my wife or daughter can walk alone at night through any place with ZERO chance of something bad happening, but until that utopia arrives, we’ll be adjusting our actions accordingly.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 years ago

Comment deleted.

Last edited 2 years ago by Andrew Fisher
Juilan Bonmottier
Juilan Bonmottier
3 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

Completely sensible and uncontroversial -can’t understand the down votes.

And although they form a minority one should not forget there are female serial killers too, and I wonder what caused the delays in arresting and ending the killing reign of Beverly Allitt for example? Lucy Letby, allegedly -the matter is going to trial – has repeatedly been killing infants over the course of a year, and in the same place. i wonder how Joan Smith would approach this subject matter?

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 years ago

Oh my God! So what is the implication here? That a few female serial killers somehow cancel out the many more male ones?! A grotesque example of whataboutery, seemingly now in defence of serial killers! We should have a competent police force skilled in catching both sets of killers, which we do not.

The article is about police incompetence, malpractice and prejudice on an epic scale, which we have now seen in case after case. They after all, think they know that loose women (and black people) are often the problem. Everyone has an interest in greatly improving this state of affairs.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
3 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

The same applies all round. There are parts of my home town where I should not go and have to detour on the way home after dark. Likely if I was to venture in to one of these places and come to harm the police would make it clear that I was partly to blame and that it was foolish to venture there. And to some extent I have to admit that they would be right.

Miss Fit
Miss Fit
3 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

Who blames all men for the actions of serial killers and predators? Yes, we look to past mistakes and work towards not repeating them. That applies to every field of work. If the problem lies with sexism, we identify it and find ways to fix it. I agree with you that we will not eliminate rape and bad apples will always exist. Women should be cautious as much as possible. But encouraging men to see women as sexual commodities renders things harder for women to stay safe and it doesn’t have to be part of girls’ reality.

Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago
Reply to  Miss Fit

We are all sexist all the time. This essay/article is sexist. There are two different sexes and there is no escaping the differences between us.
” Sexism ” is a distorted viewpoint of reality which developed out of feminist theory in the 1960s. I’m not interested in such arguments, they are foolish, false and a cover for what feminism is really about – competing with men and trying to subjugate them for power.
It is capitalism which commodifies women, and men, and children, it makes commodities out of all of us.

Val Cox
Val Cox
3 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

Rape, murder and trafficking are the extreme end of misogyny. It is not your everyday “sexism”. Women should not be at risk merely by going about their everyday lives.

Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago
Reply to  Val Cox

Sadly crimes like these are part of our world, women, men, children and babies ” should not be at risk merely ” by being alive, but they are, because there is evil in the world. Reality.

Juilan Bonmottier
Juilan Bonmottier
3 years ago
Reply to  Val Cox

and they are not ‘at risk’, or at the least you should define precisely what you mean by ‘at risk’ and from what exactly, but you don’t because you want to make it seem as if the extremely rare is in fact the general..

Caitlin McDonald
Caitlin McDonald
3 years ago
Reply to  Val Cox

“Rape, murder and trafficking are the extreme end of misogyny”

By what evidence or reasoning do you claim that rape, murder, and trafficking are acts of misogyny?

Pete Kreff
Pete Kreff
3 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

It is capitalism which commodifies women, and men, and children, it makes commodities out of all of us.

The more I think about this statement, the more I think it’s actually empty nonsense.

What would be the opposite of commodification? Being treated as a three-dimensional human being, with consideration for our individuality, our personality, our desires and fears?

Under which socio-economic situation is everyone going to be treated as a three-dimensional human being all the time? Do you treat everyone you come across as a three-dimensional human being? Of course you don’t.

If you’re driving a car, for example, you treat other people as road users. If you’re playing football, you treat the other people as footballers and consider them purely in terms of the sport.

It’s simply not possible to organise a society of millions without reducing people to more basic, pared-down units.

Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago
Reply to  Pete Kreff

No, I think you are mistaken.
Capitalism, or the market, commodifies men, women and children (babies too) by presenting models of, or aspects of, us, for sale; adverts, films, TV, offer versions of us to sell stuff, to sell a vision of a life we can be encouraged to project ourselves into, and then spend money on the objects required to live the dream in the picture.

+ A selfie is the perfect example, also Instagram, of the increasingly personal tendency to ‘sell’ oneself.

We can still opt to turn away from all of that though.

Pete Kreff
Pete Kreff
3 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

Capitalism, or the market, commodifies men, women and children (babies too) by presenting models of, or aspects of, us, for sale; adverts, films, TV, offer versions of us to sell stuff, to sell a vision of a life we can be encouraged to project ourselves into, and then spend money on the objects required to live the dream in the picture.

In what way does capitalism or the market present “models of, or aspects of, us for sale”? Sure, adverts offer a vision of a life we are encouraged to aspire to, but that does not involve me selling any aspect of myself.

Advertising is basically propaganda, i.e. a one-sided presentation of something in order to make people behave in certain ways. But propaganda exists everywhere. The Chinese Communist Party tries “to sell a vision of a life” for its citizens. Religions do as well.

It’s important to understand what commodification is supposed to mean, so I’ll ask again: what is the opposite of commodification? Or perhaps: where does commodification not take place?

A selfie is the perfect example, also Instagram, of the increasingly personal tendency to ‘sell’ oneself.

Selfies are only new in the sense that technology makes it increasingly easy to present a flattering image of oneself to the world. Technology aside, it is the same as rich people in previous centuries commissioning flattering portraits. And it’s not really any different from someone boasting in the pub or embellishing a story to make themselves look good.

Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago
Reply to  Pete Kreff

Thanks Peter for your reply, you’ve got a point, but it’s worth going back to the beginning of the argument which was Miss Fit’s suggestion that our society encourages men to view women as sexual commodities.

My reply was that our society does not do that any more than it encourages women to view men as sexual commodities, or even children unfortunately, that to some extent we are all used by the market, and we are all encouraged to buy stuff which will make of us more sexually attractive, ie, sexual commodities, in a way.

A commodity is a useful ‘thing’ for sale. IF Miss Fit is correct and idealised women are presented as sexual commodities in advertising or in any other arena, then so are men and children.

If you still disagree then we may just have to agree to differ and leave it at that, otherwise we’re going to go round in circles I think.

Pete Kreff
Pete Kreff
3 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

A commodity is a useful ‘thing’ for sale. IF Miss Fit is correct and idealised women are presented as sexual commodities in advertising or in any other arena, then so are men and children.

I agree with you entirely on that, Claire.

(I have the same problem with the ubiquitous claim of “objectification”: when most people have a sexual fantasy about a person they find desirable, I don’t think they see them as an “object”, simply because objects aren’t really much of a turn on.)

Thanks, I enjoyed our discussion.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

The article is about the police and their lazy and prejudiced attitudes, which led to more people being murdered than should have been the case! Did you actually read it? Do you have any view on that?

Capitalism is the problem?! OK, that is at least a surprising comment on this site, but like so many other, simply an assertion without a shred of evidence and an absolute irrefutable belief system that means nothing can be ever improved.

People specifically are not commodities in our society, hence slavery being a crime, strong legal measures regulating surrogate parenthood, organ selling, that people cannot consent to grievous bodily harm for payment. Etc.

Juilan Bonmottier
Juilan Bonmottier
3 years ago
Reply to  Miss Fit

I’m not sure what you mean by a ‘sexual commodity’ but it’s often women who encourage men to see them as sexually appealing -and seem to greatly enjoy doing so. Do you have a problem with that, as part of a woman’s choice? Or will you tell me all these women are just brainwashed -which doesn’t say much for the intelligence and independence of women if that is what you think.

Brian Dorsley
Brian Dorsley
3 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

This a hundred times. I had a female manager once, a woman of slight build who was able to hang out with the men, but still maintain her femininity. To my surprise, I found out she had once been champion of a European female kickboxing championship. When I asked her about it, she said most women leave personal safety in the hands of men or the state. She realized that Feminism could only ever influence good actors. Men who kill or sexually assault are unlikely to be swayed by Feminist articles in publications like Jezebel accusing them of toxic masculinity. She was also not convinced that the state would always stand by to protect women. With the now-current state endorsement of transgender self-identification in some Western countries e.g. men can be women, she has essentially been proven correct.

7882 fremic
7882 fremic
3 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

Second Amendment! “
“God created men; Col.made them equal.” So goes the oft-repeated quote about Col. Samuel and his legendary firearms.”

And from my long and weird life I can say I believe in the Right of defense. In UK self defense is a privilege of the strong and the trained fighters, and a right of no one. The Police have no duty to protect you from violence or crime, merely to investigate it at a later time. The citizen may not own a weapon for defense. If one put defense as a reason for a firearm license in UK it would be denied for life. USA has some things right, and the Constitution is one of them.

David Morley
David Morley
3 years ago

Surprising that an article on events in Yorkshire, and on continuing misogyny in the police force makes no mention of Rotherham, where such attitudes, along with fear of accusations of racism, clearly played a role. It’s pretty clear that police views on the kind of girls they were held up proper investigation.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago
Reply to  David Morley

Not sure your last sentence is fair, as I had considered fear of being seen to be racist was a more significant cause.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

Off course the Police are paralysed by the fear of being accused of Racism. Hence Rotherham, Oxford etc, plus no prosecutions for FGM for thirty years!

The Police are a servile instrument of the state, and the announcement two days ago that the Met is seeking 40% of its new recruits from ethnic minorities illustrates just how far the rot has gone.

Bye bye Dixon of d**k Green, hello PC Cop!

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

Off course the Police are paralysed by the fear of being accused of Racism. Hence Rotherham, Oxford etc, plus no prosecutions for FGM for thirty years!
The Police are a servile instrument of the state, and the announcement two days ago that the Met is seeking 40% of its new recruits from ethnic minorities illustrates just how far the rot has gone.
Bye bye Dixon of Dock Green, hello PC Cop!

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

… and let’s not forget the continuing acceptance of MGM as unworthy of significant criticism.

toti_sleight
toti_sleight
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

MGM?

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago
Reply to  toti_sleight

A good question, as Male Genital Mutilation (encouraged predominantly by various religious groups) is still deemed acceptable enough not to have generated an acronym …

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

Just as well I’m not in the Labour Party, as expressing outrage at the practice of cutting off bits of a young boy’s p***s would get me cancelled and thrown out

Charles Reed
Charles Reed
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

What the hell has Metro Goldwyn Mayer have to do with the subject – please elucidate

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago
Reply to  Charles Reed

Happily Charles – Hopefully my comment a few rows down explains.

Andrew Lale
Andrew Lale
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

13% of the country non-British, 40% of policemen minorities… what could go wrong?

Aaron Kevali
Aaron Kevali
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Lale

Minority police are more likely to stand with the government in crushing natives’ rights and freedoms.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Lale

It’s called Reverse Discrimination (RD) and will ultimately result in civil war.

Sadly, I will either be too old to participate, or already dead. Good luck to the rest of you!

LUKE LOZE
LUKE LOZE
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

It was certainly a cause, but it’s fair to say that the official view also dismissed these girls as disposable, not important.

Also once a cover up had started it snowballed, this is quite a well described concept. If you excuse someone of horrific crimes once, you’re partly responsible – so it’s in your interests to continue covering up for them.

Stephen Murray
Stephen Murray
3 years ago
Reply to  David Morley

Read “Survivors” by Maggie Oliver to gauge the attidude of the police. Disgusting.

Chris C
Chris C
3 years ago

“Digital strip search” is a clever propaganda name for requiring the complainant to disclose electronic data which may be relevant to her claim….. a claim which could (rightly) send someone to prison for many years if proven. It isn’t possible to have a fair trial while concealing evidence.

If it were suggested that some other demographic group should be allowed to refuse to provide relevant evidence, I suspect Ms. Smith would rightly point to the danger of false prosecutions and wrongful convictions.

Aaron Kevali
Aaron Kevali
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

Indeed. I mean, how dare a woman be asked to give evidence in her possession that could have a major effect on the outcome of an investigation or trial? She shoud just be *believed*.

tiffeyekno
tiffeyekno
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

Further to this point and the lurid phrase ‘digital strip search’, police have a statutory duty, enacted by parliament, to secure and store information generated during the investigation of crime. If this material is not used as ‘evidence’ in a prosecution, it becomes ‘unused material’ and must be disclosed to the defence if specified grounds are established. There are prosecutions where disclosure of unused material (to the defence) has shown the nature of the relationship between defendant and victim to be other than that asserted by the victim. In rape cases such developments are sensationalised in the press. By gathering material in the first place police are acting on a proportionate discretion in the investigation of crime. The more serious the alleged crime, the greater the amount of material will be generated. In cases of rape, telephone / social media contact between victim and defendant Iif that is the case) is potentially relevant. If the process I have described, particularly in relation to the investigation of rape, is to change it can certainly involve greater police eduction and training. But if the retention and disclosure of ‘unused material’ is to change it is a matter for parliament to change the law.

Richard Lyon
Richard Lyon
3 years ago

Joan – fortunately, Britain is one of the safest counties in the world, as measured by intentional homicide. And, in a society in which men comprise two thirds of all homicide victims, the Criminal Prosecution Service limits its ambitions only to ending violence against women and girls, and allocates its resources accordingly. When rape claim liar Jemma Beale faked multiple rape and sexual assault claims to regain the affection of her lesbian lover, the Criminal Prosecution Service sent innocent men to jail, prosecuting one of them twice in their determination to secure a conviction on her behalf. Our police now routinely withhold exculpatory evidence relevant to men’s defence, men are now formally prevented from introducing evidence in court such as social media content that falsifies their accuser’s claims, and are convicted of effective retrospective non-consent – withdrawal of consent after consent has been given – all in service of meeting demands to “improve” prosecution “targets”. And when Asia Argento – the actress who groomed a child actor, raped him, and settled out of court – cofounded the #metoo movement to draw attention to the claim that women are disproportionately the victims of sexual abuse, society lent its enthusiastic support.

It’s therefore hard to accept the claim that, in one of the safest countries in the world, and in which women are the minority victim, “women aren’t safe”. If there is an issue, why is it not that “men aren’t safe”? Even taking at face value your claim that violence against women is still not being taken seriously, it’s not obvious how catastrophising the issue and contaminating it with sexism is anything other than counterproductive.

Moreover, it’s hard to accept your claim that women are in some way being let down by the criminal justice system or society, which seem rather to be bending over backwards to accommodate their increasingly outlandish demands. For example, feminist jurisprudence activists are now seeking to make being a woman, along with religion, a “protected characteristic” in Hate Speech legislation, to classify as ‘misogyny’ a broad range of inoffensive acts, to remove the burden of proof of intent to offend, to extend the criminalisation of politically incorrect thought and speech to private homes, and to impose a custodial sentence of up to 7 years. Ordinary women and men feel that such extremist activism is already fatally undermining our justice system, the fundamental principle that we are all equal before the law, and the basic fabric of society.

Meanwhile, we are left wondering how far natural justice has to be undermined before those who undermine it will be satisfied, let alone when they will step forward and take responsibility for those who would abuse it further.

Aaron Kevali
Aaron Kevali
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Lyon

Indeed – the safer and frankly, downright indulgent a country is for women, the more they b***h about how awful it is. There is a lesson in this somewhere, maybe several.

Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Lyon

Excellent post, thank you.

Carl Valentine
Carl Valentine
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Lyon

Well said! These are troubling times….

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago

It has been painfully clear for a long time that Hill’s death and those of other women could have been avoided if West Yorkshire police had put aside their prejudices and listened to Sutcliffe’s surviving victims.
Someone remind me – are there any other “prejudices” that hamstring law enforcement today, any other instances of “managed misogyny” that are essentially ignored?

When you are reaching back 40 years to grasp for evidence while ignoring the here and now, you’re not terribly credible. I wonder what the author’s view of the claims made against Brett Kavanaugh, which did more to undermine true victims that any police malfeasance.

Aaron Kevali
Aaron Kevali
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

“What were the rapists’ names again? Oh…Ahmad? Abdul?! Shafiq!!?!! MOHAMMAD?!!!! Oh dear I think we lost the paperwork love, next time tried not to get raped by someone brown. Now piss off.”

mike otter
mike otter
3 years ago

Other indications of how little has changed are there for all to see and hear: BBC Radio 2 aired what ammounted to an obituary to Sutcliffe…. a resume of his life and crimes and his achievements (murdering and maiming). No reportage on his misogyny, his perversion, the innocence of his victims. Same day Radio 4 “PM Programme” was a little more balanced and read out the names of his victims. However they somewhat bizarrely gave the occupations of some (building society worker, student etc) but just the names of others. The implication being they were prostitutes or housewives or both. This typical tone deaf media performance is all the more obscene as many of the victims’ relatives are still alive. I find it hard to see the difference between Sutcliffe’s cheer leaders and the man himself.

Aaron Kevali
Aaron Kevali
3 years ago
Reply to  mike otter

Cheerleaders – seriously? Effective rhetoric is grounded in truth Mike.

Andrew Lale
Andrew Lale
3 years ago

‘Misogyny is as entrenched as ever’- because if, by some terrible chance, it were not, I’d be out of a job. Seems legit.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Lale

As a last resort, you could change your gender and become a “misandrist’.

That seems to be on the up ….

Carl Valentine
Carl Valentine
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

Do you need to change your sex to despise men?

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago
Reply to  Carl Valentine

Not really – but the gender change might get you the bonus of a job at the BBC.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Lale

Exactly. Activism exists for its own sake, and the livelihoods of those within it. This applies to any cause, none of which has a genuine end point at which victory can be declared.

Pete Kreff
Pete Kreff
3 years ago

The “short skirt” defence in rape cases has been replaced by a “digital strip search”, where victims are asked to hand over medical records, school reports and mobile phones, allowing detectives to access intimate photos and messages.

You say “replaced”, but that is a totally inappropriate word. The “short skirt” defence is the reprehensible idea that a woman was “asking for it” because she appears less than perfectly chaste.

A “digital strip search” is an attempt to unearth relevant evidence.

It’s utterly dishonest to equate the two.

There have been cases where men have been acquitted of rape because text messages in the female accuser’s mobile phone have provided convincing evidence that no rape occurred, that the rape accusation is the culmination of manipulative behaviour.

And why should medical records not be used? If a woman has a psychiatric history of lying to harm others, is that not relevant?

Why should potentially relevant evidence not be used? It might be the only thing stopping the accused from spending ten years in prison and having his life ruined by a malicious action. I find it highly sinister that you’re so utterly casual about that.

Juilan Bonmottier
Juilan Bonmottier
3 years ago

Oh dear… if only women were in charge of absolutely everything, then we’d be in a living nirvana wouldn’t we?

Guess it just never worked out that way for some reason… must be misogyny. Aren’t men awful?

(I didn’t read the full piece but perhaps someone can let me know if I missed anything important.)

mike otter
mike otter
3 years ago

Srsly when the humans could live without the hunters but not the gatherers it appears power was a lot more balanced between genders – as evinced by the large numbers of female deities and heriones in tradition oral tales from these times. The rot appears to have set in with agriculture and settlement where marriage and dowries made women more tradeable property than male churls or slaves. I have found in work that teams with a good mix of gender, age etc tend to achieve more than the men only equivalent where thin skins and a tendency to put pissing contests ahead of the mission can adversely affect outcomes.

Juilan Bonmottier
Juilan Bonmottier
3 years ago
Reply to  mike otter

Those obsessed by ‘gender identity’ see only ‘power’ and idealise it; as if that and that only is what the world is about, what relationships are, and what is of only significance.

The truth of history has been about men and women working out the best ways to survive, working out how to work together to survive (and civilize) in the face of great existential threat and despite (and in many ways, because of) their inherent differences (and men and women are inherently different).

To imagine it has always been only about power, and an enormous oppressor/ oppressed power struggle is reductionist in the extreme as well as being grotesquely cynical.

It also has the effect of leaving you with nothing to say or to add to the culture -because once I know your ideology, you are exceptionally predictable. The ideological programming runs itself. It has no requirement for nuance or complexity, nor, in its most cynical form, for the individual him/her self.

And there still are many female gods and heroines!

Aaron Kevali
Aaron Kevali
3 years ago

Nope, you didn’t.

Val Cox
Val Cox
3 years ago

Yes, you missed the whole point of the article.

Juilan Bonmottier
Juilan Bonmottier
3 years ago
Reply to  Val Cox

it had a point? Okay here are some points for you…

“Forty years after the Ripper, women still aren’t safe”

Well, if you were in the least bit interested in providing any sort of useful analysis of these issues, rather than whipping up ideological hysteria, you’d begin by defining what you mean by ‘safe’. Then you might look at the class of women in the context of this definition. If you mean safe from homicide, then statistically speaking the murder rate of women, in Europe, is about 0.7 per 100,000, or 0.0007%. You didn’t define ‘safe’ but my instinct says that’s pretty safe on the whole.

And it’s certainly safer for women than most men, who statistically are far more likely to fall victim to violent crime, especially murder. Globally speaking nearly 80% of all homicide victims are men. So if it is not safe for women, imagine what it is like for men.

Europe has also seen a decline in the homicide rate by 63% since 2002 -so things are self evidently getting safer.

I think I am therefore safe in concluding that the article is really very unsafe.

Caitlin McDonald
Caitlin McDonald
3 years ago

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Chris Milburn
Chris Milburn
3 years ago

No you saved yourself time better spent doing anything else.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 years ago

In response to a very well argued piece by Joan Smith, it is really rather depressing to see the usual, and frankly now in my view, suspect, arguments by various Unherd commentators that it is primarily the victims’ responsibility to prevent attacks on themselves, that effectively they should not have any social lives.

Most egregiously, I see a few weasel words about ‘mistakes’ but otherwise I can’t see anyone addressing the subject, which is the overwhelming evidence of police incompetence, malpractice and ill will. THAT is what the article was about, NOT saying all men are the problem etc.

And finally, deciding that this is the most appropriate forum to go on about supposed anti-male sexism, the fact that women kill too (so?) etc.

The police have subsequently, to our knowledge, let their overall prejudices override good practice in a number of well-known cases, most famously the Lawrence murder in Eltham. These are the cases we know about, there may well be many more. And yes, speaking simplistically here, ‘Left wing’ prejudices also cause their share of criminal scandals, as UnHerd commentators often point out, such as the Rotherham grooming and rape gangs. But, as my mother always used to say two wrongs don’t make a right!

In all likelihood these things will always happen short of living in an all seeing totalitarian state. But the fact remains that the police could and should have prevented a number, probably many, of these murders, if they had been competent, followed the evidence than what they wanted to be the case. Surely we all should have an interest in that, whatever our political outlook.

Last edited 2 years ago by Andrew Fisher
Juilan Bonmottier
Juilan Bonmottier
3 years ago

above

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
2 years ago

The Netflix series Ripper used a lot of contemporary film that shows how history has been re-written. The police were not indifferent about the murder of prostitutes. Far from it. They ignored the evidence offered in some of the crime scenes because they knew the women were not prostitutes and incorrectly assumed that these murders were at the hands of other people. The people who were unsympathetic about the fate of the prostitutes were the general public and in particular women. The reason for their lack of sympathy was the reason that has prevailed since marriage began: prostitutes were seen as depriving wives and children of the earnings of their husbands and fathers.
What was also clear was that the police were drowning in information which in a pre-IT age they were unable to store on anything other than a library of filing cards. I don’t pretend that the police made grave mistakes. However computerized records and DNA would make it very difficult for anyone to repeat the Ripper’s crimes over so many years.

xsarahdavis
xsarahdavis
3 years ago

Glad he’s dead the filthy pig. Don’t forget the upside down sweater under his trousers that have him that extra buzz.

Helen Barbara Doyle
Helen Barbara Doyle
3 years ago

Now it seems the police like to gauge the colour of your skin before deciding if they will arrest, white skin and you are fair game.

Alan Thorpe
Alan Thorpe
2 years ago

Joan Smith criticises with the benefit of knowledge. I wonder how well she would have been at solving the case. Perhaps she should consider joining the police.

Last edited 2 years ago by Alan Thorpe
M Spahn
M Spahn
3 years ago

Interesting to contrast this with the recent article celebrating Wournos.

John Vaughan
John Vaughan
3 years ago

Interesting looking at your Wikipedia entry Joan, as we seem to agree on everything but I have a different perspective on women’s safety, partly as I’m a man but partly experience. The night Jacqi Hill was murdered, I babysat while my wife walked past Alma Road to the New Inn, 200 yards north, possibly a little earlier than the murder. I was subsequently interviewed myself and a friend of mine, Michael, interrupted the attempted murder of a Singaporean student on Chapel Lane opposite the Skyrack a little later. In the early 90s I was so messed up mentally that I used to visit Holbeck to gain some sense and solace from the girls. That’s right, girls. because that’s what they call themselves, ‘working girls’ not ‘prostitutes’ and I have never heard one say that they have been ‘prostituted’ as though they had been forced into it. From my view Joan, I ask you to drop your hate for men and remind yourself of your humanism and socialism – neoliberal capitalism forces all of us to be alienated and this is why we end up hating each other.

David George
David George
3 years ago
Reply to  John Vaughan

What has “neoliberal capitalism” got to do with it?
The advocates for socialism, the Marxists and the collectivists, on the other hand, seem intent on fostering resentment and division with their victim oppressor ideology. Where have you been?