Plain clothes officers to patrol pubs in women's safety pilot

By Emily Hawkins

- Last updated on GMT

Safety: UKHospitality has welcomed a pilot scheme that would see undercover officers patrol pubs in a fresh attempt to reassure women (image: Getty/AmArtPhotography)
Safety: UKHospitality has welcomed a pilot scheme that would see undercover officers patrol pubs in a fresh attempt to reassure women (image: Getty/AmArtPhotography)

Related tags lockdown Legislation Health and safety Coronavirus

Fresh women’s safety measures announced by the Government include a pilot scheme involving plain clothes police officers patrolling clubs and bars.

The steps were announced following the death of Sarah Everard. A Metropolitan Police officer has been charged with the kidnap and murder of the 33-year-old who went missing after walking home from a friend’s house in South London.

The case sparked protests across the country, with women demanding more be done to prevent violence against females and to hold perpetrators to account. 

Undercover patrols

Among “immediate steps” to reassure women, including a £25m cash injection for better lighting and CCTV, the Government announced pilots of ‘Project Vigilant’, a scheme by Thames Valley Police.

Uniformed and plain clothes officers will identify predatory and suspicious offenders in the night-time economy” by attending main areas undercover and increasing patrols at closing time.

UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls welcomed the funding news and said the hard work of operators on this issue should be highlighted.

Schemes including Best Bar None, Pub Watch, Drinkaware and Ask for Angela have been eagerly adopted by venues to prioritise safety.

"The welfare of our customers and our staff is a priority," Nicholls added.

Cannot relax efforts

Businesses have also invested “considerable sums of money” into security and surveillance to improve venue safety, which should be matched by local resources, she said.

Nicholls continued: “That does not mean we can relax our efforts. We must continue to work hard to provide safe environments and we will regularly review our practices to see how we can be even more effective.”

However, Oakman Inns executive chairman Peter Borg-Neal said he felt the move represented a distrust of the sector.

He tweeted: “Another pathetic attempt by Government to deflect from their own failings and blame hospitality. In my pubs if someone harasses someone else we throw them out – we don’t need this intrusion.”

The Government’s unpopular curfew policy last year “drove a glut in demand for taxis” after 10pm, making it more difficult for women to get home.

“They didn’t think it through,” Borg-Neal said. “Pubs did and allowed people to wait inside in defiance of the Government's foolishness.”

Venue safety project Good Night Out Campaign criticised the plans and said "real cultural change" would come from training and community education.

"The nightlife economy and its workers have been hard hit in the pandemic," they said.​ "They need resources and support to deal with industry challenges including sexual harassment, not spies on the dancefloor.⁠⁠"

Several activist groups said the announcement failed to acknowledge concerns about the police that had been raised by women.

Organisation Reclaim These Streets welcomed extra funding but said structural changes were needed to tackle the issue. 

"Women won't be able to trust that they are safe until misogyny and racism are tackled at an institutional level within Government, police and the criminal justice system," a spokesperson said.

The Metropolitan Police was heavily criticised for its approach to a vigil for Sarah Everard, at Clapham Common on Saturday (13 March), with images of protestors tackled to the ground.

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