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We need to listen to women and girls to improve safety in the city, says Council Leader

A new multi-agency commission is to be launched in Plymouth to tackle violence against women and girls.

The Leader of Plymouth City Council, Councillor Nick Kelly, is establishing the commission, which will bring together key partners and agencies across the city to review what more needs to be done to prevent this type of crime.

The Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) Commission will review what is being done across the city to educate men and boys, prevent and deter these types of crimes and consider what support is available for victims. The commission will invite local organisations who work with female victims of violence, to hear more about their experiences and their recommendations about what more needs to be done.

Crimes of violence against women and girls include rape and other sexual offences, stalking, domestic abuse, ‘honour-based abuse’, ‘revenge porn’ and ‘upskirting’, as well as many others.

It is the intention that the new commission will be chaired by a new ‘Champion for VAWG’, Councillor Rebecca Smith.

Councillor Kelly said: “Plymouth has seen a tragedy in the last week. I am determined that the council will do all that it can to ensure that the city is made safe for women and girls.

“Quite rightly the conversation must centre around female voices. Therefore, we need to listen. I have asked Cllr Rebecca Smith to lead this piece of work, spearheading the commission.

“Together with our partners we will then put in place clear, deliverable actions that will make a real difference to the safety of our streets.

Councillor Rebecca Smith, added: “This is such an important issue. One that I am honoured to lead on behalf of Plymouth. We cannot shy away from the realities that women face.

”The feeling of fear, intimidation, harassment and helplessness cannot continue, we need to confront these problems head-on so we can come up with a lasting, long-term solution to the deadly violence and abuse too many women and girls experience, at the hands of men.

“We have a number of groups in the city who are working tirelessly on this already and I am keen to work with them to capitalise on their experience and expertise, so that together we can be part of the solution. I want to move forward and make a real change for Plymouth.”

Chief Superintendent Matt Longman, from Devon and Cornwall Police and the Chair of Safer Plymouth, said: “No one person or organisation is going to have all the answers when it comes to keeping women and girls safe. To change things for the better we need to listen to a broad range of people and try to understand how the whole city can work further together. I believe this commission will play a key role and the Devon and Cornwall police will be an integral part of it. If the right conversations can take place, and we can secure commitment to things they tell us, we will ensure women and girls are safer, and feel safer, in our city.”

To help feed into the commission agenda, Safer Plymouth – the city’s community safety partnership – is seeking to hold a virtual Q and A with local people over the next few weeks, to listen to local people, particularly women and girls. Further information about this will follow shortly.

Read here for more information about the Safer Streets programme.

Councillor Rebecca Smith is the ward councillor for Plymstock Radford. She is also the Chair of the Planning Committee.