All crimes matter. All harm society. But there are some crimes which are so shocking that they trigger a collective wave of horror and revulsion in us all. The killing of Sarah Everard is just such a case. A young woman, just walking home, subjected to unimaginable terror and brutality.
Such crimes are mercifully rare. Cheltenham is a comparatively safe place to live and work. And it’s true that not all men are perpetrators.
But men should be sensitive to the fact that walking near a woman late at night down the Honeybourne Line or in Sandford Park can cause real anxiety. Parents and teachers can be robust in teaching boys about how women should be treated in the street.
Following the dreadful murder of Hollie Gazzard, and the stalking ordeal of Cheltenham GP, Ellie Aston, we in Cheltenham have campaigned hard to boost protection for women – particular those tormented by stalkers. Sometimes, it is only by imprisoning stalkers and removing the threat from circulation that women can be made to feel safe. That’s why it was right to fight to double the maximum prison sentence.
It’s also the reason why it was right to vote this week for measures that will see those convicted of serious violence and sex crimes spend longer behind bars.
But there’s more we can do. The Government has doubled the Safer Streets fund to provide better lighting and the greater use of CCTV. I am keen to hear your thoughts about the areas that could benefit.
The alleys, pavements and cycle routes that our children use for school. The isolated bus stops and the routes we take to and from Cheltenham Spa train station. The paths from bars, restaurants and nightclubs that will reopen after lockdown.
Please write to me with your thoughts at alex.chalk.mp@parliament. Let’s make Cheltenham an ever better, and safer, place to live.