Labour has accused the government of making the penalty for pulling down a statue “more important” than for rape with its flagship crime legislation.
Measures in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill include increasing the maximum penalty for criminal damage to a memorial from three months to 10 years.
It comes after several statues were targeted during Black Lives Matter protests last year, most notably a tribute to slaver Edward Colston being toppled in Bristol.
David Lammy, Labour‘s shadow justice secretary, told Sky News: “The Conservatives have majored on giving 10 years for pulling down a statue like we saw in Bristol.
“It is the case here in the UK that the starting tariff in prison is five years for rape. In India it’s 10, in Australia it’s seven. Of course, it should be higher.
“Why are we saying that pulling down a statue is more important than a woman’s body? That’s the question you should be asking the government.”
He added: “This was a moment where after the killing of Sarah Everard, the country could have come together with some serious measures to address violence against women and girls.
“Let’s remember that every three days a woman in our country loses her life, that last year 55,000 women reported rape and there were only just over 1,800 prosecutions brought.
“There’s a lot to do. Women being stalked on our streets – we should be making misogyny a hate crime and we should absolutely be ensuring that if you abduct, rape and murder a woman, the starting point is life.”
Mr Lammy continued: “This was an opportunity to get serious about these measures.
“Instead we have a bill that’s largely around protecting statues, and giving people 10 years for criminal damage of statues, when it could be about these very, very serious issues.”
The MP for Tottenham said he was also concerned about how the legislation will restrict the public’s ability to carry out legal protests.
“We didn’t need legislation that the government’s now taking to deny people the democratic right to protest,” he said.
“All of it is designed to create wedge issues in the run-up to the local elections – it is not designed to deal with the very serious issues that face our country.
“The bottom line is why did the government stick into this bill changes to trespass laws that the police don’t want? Why did the government go after protesters when we’ve had protesting for years?”
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