Most Kingston residents think misogyny should be classified as a hate crime, according to a survey conducted by the Kingston Courier.
In response to recent high-profile murders such as Sarah Everard’s, some campaigners have been pushing to classify misogyny as a hate crime, which would make the penalty for crimes motivated by a hatred of women more severe.
In a survey of 203 residents and 45 students, 87 per cent said they were in favour of the reclassification.
Jane Elmslie, a resident and retired administrator, said she agreed because violence against women and girls was “through the roof”.
“So much is so obviously motivated by hatred or a massive lack of disrespect,” Elmslie said.
However, even among those who voted yes, concerns were raised about enforceability, free speech, and equality.
Chay Strawbridge said: “It is my understanding that this move would have no real world effect on the law – everything that it would seem to criminalise is already illegal.
“However, classifying misogyny as a hate crime means that some crimes would be so recorded, giving society some useful data that does not currently exist.”
Deputy leader of Kingston Council Tim Cobbett said the council did not have a “formal/official” view on making misogyny a hate crime.
“My own view is that where a crime is committed against someone motivated by the perpetrator’s feelings or attitude towards a particular group in society then it makes sense to view that as a hate crime,” he said.
Cobbett also said the council was carrying out a year-long programme to address “the safety of women and girls in the borough”.
Education was frequently mentioned as a preferred alternative to reclassification.
“I distinctly dislike [misogyny] but I don’t think it should go so far as a hate crime,” said David, a retired police officer, who responded no. “The trouble is everything has got to be a crime these days and educating people would be a much more sensible approach.”
Steven Hayward, a respondent on Facebook, was concerned about a potential reclassification of misogyny affecting free speech. He said: “making it a crime does not make it go away.
“All you’re doing, therefore, is making people sure shut up… When you restrict the free speech of others you are, without realising it, restricting everyone’s right to hear.”
Some respondents said that misandry should also be reclassified as a hate crime. “Discrimination of any sort shouldn’t be allowed,” said Josh, a quantity surveying student.
The topic has sparked some controversy in national politics. Prime Minister Boris Johnson was criticised for saying there is already “abundant statute” to tackle violence against women and girls.
He said: “I think, to be perfectly frank, if you simply widen the scope of what you ask the police to do you’ll just increase the problem.”