On 28th October, the International Day against Hate Crime, Vincent Tabak was convicted of the murder of Jo Yeates. It has emerged that, like Graham Coutts, who killed Brighton music teacher Jane Longhurst in 2003, Tabak was a consumer of sadistic pornography depicting strangulation of women.
A day earlier, serial killer Robert Black was convicted of the sadistic sexual assault and murder of Jennifer Cardy. He is known to have murdered at least 3 other girls and to have cruelly victimised others. On the same day there were reports of appeals by 3 recently convicted wife-killers. One was Jon Clinton, whose wife Dawn reportedly tried vainly to escape his abuse. According to a Crown Prosecution Service statement following his trial “Jon Clinton was a controlling husband and couldn’t accept Dawn’s increasing independence, so he killed her in cold blood….”
How extraordinary it is that under British law, despite the fact that these killers deliberately targeted females and assumed the right of life or death over them, none is considered to have been guilty of hate crime – nor could that possibility have formally been considered by investigating officers.
Racist and homophobic attacks and crimes against religious communities, disabled or transgendered people are deemed hate crimes and attract increased sentences. However, the law does not accept that hate crime against women exists – even when offenders repeatedly target the same or different women or use grossly sexist language during assaults. The law acknowledges that prejudice can give rise to violence, but fails to accept that attitudes of loathing and contempt for women make them a target too.
Between three and four women and girls die each week as a result of male violence, of which two are killed by partners and ex-partners. Although this is a higher annual death rate than existed during the years of Northern Ireland conflict and exceeds troop loss in Iraq and Afghanistan, no government has yet made safety for women and girls a political and financial priority, still less examined its roots in sexism and prejudice.
If Jo Yeates’ death had been tried as a hate crime it is unlikely that Vincent Tabak’s interest in images of violence against women could have been kept from the jury. It is also highly likely that the tariff set would have been higher than 20 years.