A Staffordshire rape law campaigner has become the unexpected leader of the battle to unseat former shadow Home Secretary David Davis as an MP.
Jill Saward, a 43-year-old mother of three who lives in Hednesford, made headlines in March 1986 when she became the victim of the Ealing Vicarage Rape attack.
She was raped at her vicarage home while her boyfriend and father – the then vicar of Ealing – were beaten up and left for dead. She waived her right to anonymity and has since campaigned for the rights of rape victims.
Her decision to stand as an Independent against Mr Davis for the Haltemprice and Howden constituency follows her objection to his views on the national DNA database, which she argued helps to convict criminals – particularly in cases of sexual violence and rape.
As part of her True Liberty campaign, Ms Saward is calling for the criminal justice system to take more account of the “needs of victims of crime rather than the needs of wrong-doers”.
Last week she spent her time visiting numerous villages throughout the constituency ahead of Thursday’s by-election and on Saturday, bookies William Hill cut the odds of her winning from 33/1 to 5/1.
She said: “The people I meet are very angry that David Davis has resigned from the Commons on a matter of principle, but then chose to stand again in the by-election.
“He has already sent his message by resigning from the Commons and, with neither Labour nor the Liberal Democrats standing, nothing will be gained by his re-election.”
She added her decision to stand was not directly related to the MP’s stance on the 42-day detention of suspected terrorists, but because of his attacks on CCTV and the national DNA database – tools which she said were essential for the police in their fight against crime.
“Mr Davis thinks that by forcing a by-election he is standing up for British Justice,” she said. “In reality he is attempting to strike a hammer blow through the very tools the police need to keep us safe.”
She published an open letter to Tory leader David Cameron on her website. In the letter, she asked the Conservative leader to answer questions about rape sentencing and crisis centres, peaceful protest, civil liberties, the DNA database and the use of CCTV.
On the subject of civil liberties, she said: “David Davis does not want to help the police catch criminals. He wants to make their job harder in the name of ‘civil liberties’.
“His disagreement might explain why he had so little to say about issues of sexual violence and violence against women while he was shadow Home Secretary.”
Speaking of her campaign work in Haltemprice and Howden, she told Mr Cameron: “This is the first time I’ve stood for election. It’s an odd experience.
“Not least because just about everybody who tells me they are voting for David Davis tell me they are doing so through loyalty to the Conservative Party or loyalty to David Davis and to thank him for the work he has done as their MP in the past; rather than through support of his stance.
“I have met nobody in Haltemprice and Howden who agrees with David Davis’s decision to stand down and cause this expensive by-election and I have met very few people in Haltemprice and Howden who agree with David Davis’s stance on 42-day detention, CCTV, DNA and other security issues.”