UK phone service to protect women walking home, after Sarah Everard murder

Home Secretary Priti Patel backs emergency line

A proposed phone service designed to protect women as they walk home in the UK has received the backing of the home secretary following the outcry caused by Sarah Everard's murder at the hands of a policeman.

Wayne Couzens used his police issue handcuffs and warrant card to stage a fake arrest so he could kidnap the 33-year-old before he raped and murdered her.

It has called into question the safety of women on the UK's streets.

On Saturday, telecoms firm BT announced a new initiative to offer women the opportunity to have their journeys tracked.

A spokeswoman said the Home Office had received a letter from BT chief executive Philip Jansen proposing using an emergency number which can be used to allow the vulnerable to have their journeys tracked and an alert triggered if they do not arrive home in time.

“We have received the letter and will respond in due course,” the spokeswoman said.

“As set out in our strategy earlier this year, we need a whole-of-society approach to tackling violence against women and girls and welcome joint working between the private sector and government.”

Home secretary Priti Patel said it would good to implement the scheme as soon as possible.

“This new phone line is exactly the kind of innovative scheme which would be good to get going as soon as we can. I’m now looking at it with my team and liaising with BT,” she told the Daily Mail.

The telecommunications provider has run the 999 emergency number for 84 years.

The new “walk me home” service could be in operation by Christmas, potentially with the number 888 and the ability to summon police.

Mr Jansen said the idea came after he was filled with “outrage and disgust” by the murders of Ms Everard and Sabina Nessa.

“There is a growing anger and desperation to take action,” he said.

“As CEO of BT, I am in a position to do something practical. I have been thinking about how we can use technology to tackle the problem.

“So, together with my BT colleagues, I have come up with something that I believe can help.”

He said “similar GPS technology to Uber and Google Maps” could allow a phone user to opt in to a “remote tracking mechanism”.

“When activated it would automatically trigger an alert if they didn’t reach their destination within the expected time,” he said.

“The user’s named emergency contacts — usually family and friends — could then raise the alarm with the police if they could not establish the user’s whereabouts and safety.

“No one would be missing for hours, their whereabouts unknown. It would also allow a user to send an instant alert to the police, with just one touch.

“My colleagues at BT are now working on the technology and practicalities.”

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick on Friday announced Baroness Casey of Blackstock will lead a review of culture and standards at the force in the wake of Ms Everard's murder by one of its officers.

Dame Cressida said the review was an “important step in our journey to rebuild public trust” and would scrutinise the force’s vetting, recruitment, leadership, training and “all manner of processes to see how they reinforce the best possible standards”.

Updated: October 9th 2021, 5:07 PM
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