Amended (on January 31st) version of original post (of Jan 9th) to fix some typos due to having been exhausted while initially writing it (after a 9 hour plus drive), apologies and let me know if you spot any more! I have been rushing between appointments for myself and my daughter who had a small accident on Monday and then a bad case of tonsillitis. We have also had intermittent power but on-going water issues at home so I have not been online much this week. However, in light of the fact that I have been vocal in my support of refugees and my love of Cologne (where I enjoyed two German exchanges whilst at school), I thought it would be a good idea to post a little summary of my views on these attacks.
Here are some comments I made to Chloe Combi on twitter re policng in Cologne on Jan 6th:
You can read the conversation on my timeline.
Some suggestions I made at the time for self-defence and to improve the conviction rate were:
Supplying women with pepper spray / alarms and smart water devices to mark attackers.
Of course alarms are only any use if there is someone to hear them and intervene, and pepper spray if you are not massively outnumbered and for this reason I feel the police needed to have a bigger presence on the streets of Cologne that night and this is something all EU states will need to be mindful of during similar events in future.
I think it is obvious that Germany and all EU countries accepting migrants need to instil a zero tolerance policy to sexual assault and similar attacks. I do not understand why it sounds like there were so few police on the streets of Cologne that night, nor why groups of single men were able to run amok in such numbers in the city.
Listening to Radio 2 in the car on 6th I had heard the low arrest rate on New Year's Eve in Cologne and the interviewee (a German lawyer) talk about, and the low penalties (usually just small fines) for similar attacks.
I do think there are practical steps that could be taken in prevention of such attacks in future, and that these need to be the responsibility of the police and legislature of the countries concerned and not levelled at it's female citizens. It was heartening, therefore, to see Angela Merkel quoted as talking tough in yesterday's NYT:
"We must act against this with all decisiveness, because I do not think that these are just isolated cases,” she told reporters in Berlin on Thursday. Mrs Merkel reiterated, “We must continually re-examine whether we really have done everything, as far as expulsion orders and actual expulsions from Germany are concerned.”
It remains to be seen how far these steps would go, but in the current climate of fear, mistrust and cultural differences drawing very firm boundaries on what is acceptable behaviour in our societies, and enforcing them will be of vital importance.
Personally I don't think fines are an appropriate response to sexual attacks. I think jail and rehabilitation or deportation (depending on severity and circumstances) of convicted attackers is.