Government cuts to police budgets “will make women scared to go out at night”, according to a shadow minister who told MPs about the “terrifying” time she was followed home by a stranger.
Cat Smith, the Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, made an impassioned plea to the Government to reconsider its plans to cut funding for the police.
The Labour MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood recounted how late at night on July 24 2013 she was followed home but was then helped by a police constable who happened to be on the beat.
“I got the last train from Preston into Lancaster which arrived at about half past 11 at night and I made the short 10 minute walk journey home,” she said.
“When I left the train station there was obviously a huge crowd of people travelling away from the station with me and slowly people filtered off in different directions until I became very conscious there was just one person following suspiciously closely behind me and there was an instinct that kicked in and I made the decision to cross the road.
“This man crossed the road after I crossed the road and I thought ‘well, you know, maybe I am making it up, maybe it is all in my head’.
“I crossed back on to the original side I had been on and he crossed back with me.
“That moment when you realise that you are not making this up, that you, at half past 11 at night in your home city, are being followed home by a strange man is a terrifying moment that can happen to any one of us.”
Ms Smith said she was “very fortunate” to come across a police constable who was attending an incident and was on the beat. She explained the situation and the constable put Ms Smith in the back of his police car and made sure she got home safely. The constable spoke to the man who admitted he had been following Ms Smith and had wanted to find out where she lived because he “liked the way I look”.
The MP is the latest to hit out at cuts to the police force in Lancashire.
In recent weeks, both Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw and chief constable Steve Finnigan have hit out at the cuts, which they claim could see £87m wiped from the constabulary’s balance sheet as a result of the government’s spending review.
Ms Smith told MPs: “These police cuts, this loss of community policing will have a real impact on real people’s lives.
“So when my chief constable in Lancashire Steve Finnigan says that these cuts could potentially see Lancashire be a blue light-only service that terrifies me as a woman.
“And when some councils because of the cuts are talking about switching off street lights at night that makes me question as a woman whether or not I can walk home safely from work in an evening.”
She urged the Government to reconsider its spending plans. This will impact on women’s lives and this will make women scared to go out at night,” she said.