Jo Swinson calls for misogyny to be made a hate crime

Crimes motivated by prejudice such as homophobia and racism already carry stiffer penalties, so if we accept that principle, why on earth do we not include misogyny in that?

Jo Swinson this week made that very point using some colourful language on the Victoria Derbyshire show.

You can watch the whole thing here from 1:26:31

She has been pretty much winning Twitter over the past few days. Unsurprisingly she has had more than her fair share of trolls in her timeline and she’s faced them all down.

On Saturday morning I laughed for probably 10 minutes when I read this:

And even more when she engaged with “Mr Wanker”

She had a good chat with former athlete Kriss Akabusi too:

Jo Swinson’s book, Equal Power, is due out tomorrow. I thought I had reached peak excitement with the last Harry Potter book, but it’s nothing compared to my sense of anticipation about this one. When I got the email to say it was in the shop, I was thrilled to bits.

Anyway, if you haven’t already, order it here. .

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Will she get national publicity for this? If so it would be individual recognition and something people will remember one way or the other. We are desperately short of recognition at the moment.
    As the saying goes the only bad publicity is no publicity. Would it be something dragged up by opponents in an election, and if so how would the public react? In this day and age the vast majority would probably “not give a damn”, as Clarke Gable would say.

  • While applauding much of what Jo says – we do need to be careful on what language (as supposed to actions) is made criminal as supposed to just thought unacceptable.

  • Jo is right – there is a big difference between saying the two things. Its not evident that the difference is that one is a ‘hate crime’ motivated by misogyny though.

  • OnceALibDem 31st Jan '18 - 4:05pm

    I agree with a lot of what Jo says. But we shouldn’t be adding more strands to hate crime legislation because its sends out a terrible message to those left behind/outside.

  • My first thought upon reading this was how old I obviously am and how depressing it is than any man would think this an acceptable way to talk to any fellow human being. But then I thought, how do you prove, in court, that the crass, unforgivably rude comment was motivated by mysogeny, rather than just ignorance (or drink !). A real challenge for the legislation drafters and a potential pay day for lawyers. Jo is right though and we need to move, somehow, to a place where the interaction between men and women is at least conducted with grace and good manners. Or does that sound absurdly bourgeoise ?

  • Proving the motive will always be a challenge in processing any hate crime, but going through the process of considering the motive is still of value.

    Some people were leaping to the conclusion that this would make thinking sexist thoughts illegal, and that Jo was advocating making wolf-whistles an imprisonable offence. I’m sure at least half of them were doing so deliberately as a ploy to avoid confronting the real issues, but it didn’t help that the question was on screen while Jo was talking about how it is still possible for men to approach women without being letchy.

    There was absolutely nothing wrong with Jo’s language in the context, and few, if any, of those making a big deal out of it really cared. I checked the profiles of a few people who were being all indignant, and most were using worse language themselves, and a good chunk were mainly using twitter to interact with dedicated Trump fans, or pro-Brexit accounts, and a good few who only care for women’s rights if it involves having a go at Muslims.

    Jo struck a nerve, and the disproportionate reaction from some only serves to underline that there’s a long way to go.

  • Personally, I think the notion of specific hate crimes can devalue the suffering of other victims. Punish people for the crime not what goes on in their grey matter. I believe that we should not differentiate between victims according to a hierarchy of social grievances and past injustices.

  • When you know that people are physically attacked on the grounds of race, religion and gender, then the fear is about a lot more than the crime itself.

    Proving that Stephen Lawrence’s killers were racist might seem incidental to some, when he would be just as dead if it were a mugging gone wrong, and of course proving that any specific crime was a result of racism, or misogyny or homophobia can be tricky, but it can and should make a difference to how the police handle the investigation, and when someone is found guilty of a crime, then the motivation should be considered when deciding what is the appropriate sentence – and rehabilitation.

    This is already done to an extent, with judges considering statements from social workers etc, and while this sort of move wouldn’t be without challenges, it’s just a means to make it easier for the police and judges to better address the particular concerns of those sorts of crimes.

  • I think a bunch of people here have a misconception of what hate crime law is.

    Hate crime law is not about motivation, but impact.

    The way that hate crime laws work in the UK is that they are an aggravating factor in sentencing – that is, it would have to be a crime even without the hate factor, but the fact that the crime had a hateful impact makes it more serious.

    Secondly, the reasoning is not about motivation – it’s not that this crime is worse because it’s motivated by hate – but about impact, that is if someone commits a crime in a way that is misogynist, then that crime has an impact on other women beyond the immediate victim, in a way that the same crime doesn’t if it’s not misogynist. And that additional impact justifies a more serious sentence.

    The way the aggravating factor law is actually written doesn’t require the sentencing judge to look inside the criminal’s mind and work out their actual motivation, but to look at whether someone outside would believe that the crime was driven by misogyny and therefore other women could be intimidated by that crime.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 2nd Feb '18 - 1:28pm

    Fiona and Richard make very good arguments for these comments from Jo taken on board, and considered in a positive way.

    My view is the original comments from Jo would make a greater impact with me if they were additional to a track record on crime and being, yes tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime, to coin or use a long ago coined phrase from a certain man I often agreed on on these issues!

    As someone whose politics is inspired incresingly and ever by Mill, the harm from words , however lousy, is as of more or less very little compared to the hideous and often permanent emotional and physical horror of direct and violent crime, often by men to women.

    A bit more on Worboys and the assailants of the wonderful Katie Piper possibly being released, from Jo and others in politics would be more than welcome, and a joined up policy based on the harm principle of Mill.

  • Richard
    I don’t think a bunch of people here have misunderstood the article.

    The problem with hate crime has a separate category added to define the impact on victims of crime is that it predetermines what is viewed as the severity of that impact. I’m just not so certain.
    If you ask me should racist or misogynist abuse be treated as a crime, absolutely they should. What makes me less comfortable is the idea that someone who is physically attacked can be said to have suffered less simply because they fall outside of a particularly group. In truth, I think t violent crimes are sometimes treated too leniently. One of the issues is victim blaming and another is making excuses for the perpetuator of the crime. So you end up with arguments along the lines of ” the victim should not have dressed like this or that or gone here or there and the criminal had a hard life” and so on. That to me is more of a problem than trying to legally define the impact of hate.

  • OnceALibDem 3rd Feb '18 - 10:49am

    Richard – there are also hate incidents though. Specifically not crimes but motivated by hatred and that only includes the specific strands. Police forces are very slow to include additional strands in this reporting despite pioneering work done in Greater Manchester (largely prompted by the Sophie Lancaster trust.

    There are also specific hate crimes – though the motivation can be used by the Judge as an aggravating factor in sentencing (as was the case in the Sophie Lancaster murder).

    The included strands correspond largely with those groups that have political clout (and in a way power). The excluded ones are groups that don’t – alternative sub cultures are the most common one but you can also say non-trans transvestites fall outside the strands. I can’t recall the PM welcome leaders of either of those communities to a reception at Downing Street for example.

    That’s why I don’t like the ‘stands’ concept. It leaves people out – and the people it leaves out are already those who are pretty marginalised.

  • David Evershed 3rd Feb '18 - 12:15pm

    Having started life working in a factory where crude language was the only language, there is a danger that objecting to crude language as being misogynist is really just a distinction of working class talk versus middle class talk.

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