Agenda item




To consider and discuss a Women’s Safety Charter for North Hertfordshire district.



The following public participants provided presentations to the Committee on the topic of ‘Creating a Women’s Safety Charter’:


·       Caroline Thwaites

·       Bob Mardon

·       Cassie Harman

·       Kerrie Portman


The Chair invited Caroline Thwaites to provide the Panel with a presentation on the Southwark Council’s Women’s Safety Charter. Ms Thwaites thanked the Chair for the opportunity and provided a verbal presentation, which included that:


·       She was the Community Safety portfolio head at Southwark Council and had been involved in this work for 25 years, including the development and introduction of the Women’s Charter in 2014.

·       Southwark was a London borough with a population of around 300k and an average age of 34, making it comparatively young.

·       The police area was one of the busiest in London in terms of number of crimes and severity of these.

·       The discussion around women’s safety had changed since the launch of the Charter in 2014, with a number of tragic high-profile deaths, and the safety of women had been adopted as a Council priority over the last few years.

·       In 2014 there was a focus on a ‘Fairer Future’ priority, which had been a consultative approach alongside Hollaback, and spoke primarily to females, as at the time there was a clear picture of harassment in licensed venues and premises.

·       It was reported at the time that the behaviour had been normalised and that the harassment was generally left unreported.

·       Having spoken to the premises, they requested the Council to support them in helping develop tools to not just deal with harassment, but also any potential escalation to violence.

·       There was a key pledge developed, which sought to bring in some key principles that all venues would follow, these were: visibility of the campaign, clarity in venue acting effectively, taking reporting seriously, training for front of house staff and active support for victims.

·       130 venues signed up by the launch and this was targeted at known areas in Southwark where the issue was the most extreme and encouraging venues to do this as part of their licence application.

·       There was a conversation about whether this could be required as a licensing condition, but it was advised that this was not possible as the change would be required to come from central government.

·       There had been progress made on the safety of women across London boroughs and there was now a focus on evaluating how the scheme was still performing and whether it could be refreshed in line with other, national initiatives.

·       This evaluation work would not look to encompass a wider group to consult with on its contents.


The following Members asked questions:


·       Councillor Keith Hoskins

·       Councillor Elizabeth Dennis-Harburg

·       Councillor Ian Albert

·       Councillor Mandi Tandi


In response to questions, Ms Thwaite advised that:


·       When the Charter was first introduced around 15-20% of businesses in the area signed up. This had decreased due to the pandemic, as well as the emergence of other national campaigns, but it was hoped the work could be refreshed and improved.

·       It was not just about residents, but also those from outside the borough visiting.

·       It was important to have a clear and consistent message as part of the campaign and ensure that support offered is not confusing.

·       Engagement of all parties was imperative.

·       Lighting was a key issue raised following the death of Sarah Everard, but it was felt that this needed to be looked at alongside other considerations about safety in the night-time economy. It was important that lighting was not focussed on as this may falsely reassure people.

·       Lighting audits were being carried out across Southwark, but this was alongside other policy considerations.

·       The Women’s Safety Charter was developed in 2014, however the conversation had now changed, and it was important to understand safety for all, with the Charter as a part of this wider policy.

·       Southwark had run a misogyny campaign, which had been developed alongside young men, so that they could explore the how men could get involved, but also the specific vulnerabilities facing men.


N.B. Councillor Ian Albert left the meeting at 20.05 and did not return.


The Chair invited Bob Mardon and Cassie Harman to provide the Panel with a presentation on their experience of running a music venue, Club85 in Hitchin. They thanked the Chair for the opportunity and provided a verbal presentation, which included that:


·       It was important to have a visible presence so that those in danger know who to contact. They currently employ the Ask Angela scheme, but have never had to use it within the venue.

·       The different type of event would determine the level of issues with which staff may have to contend, and this was communicated with staff in the venue.

·       Most attendees of the venue know that they are attending a safe space, where bad behaviour will not be tolerated by venue staff.

·       Staff are provided with training to assess and deal with any situations which present themselves.

·       They venue was about to move towards gender-neutral, inclusive toilets.


In response to a question from Councillor Alistair Willoughby it was noted that the venue tried to treat people like humans and to be as involved as possible in the experience of customers. It was felt that a charter which standardised practice across the district would be very good.


The Chair thanked the Club 85 representatives and noted that the Charter would potentially act as best practice to be copied at premises across the district.


The Chair invited Kerrie Portman to provide the Panel with a verbal presentation, which focused on her experience as a woman suffering abuse in North Herts. At the conclusion the Chair thanks Ms Portman for sharing the highly sensitive and personal experience, which was echoed by others in attendance as well as offers of support.

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