Protest planned at 'unsafe' Headingley Stadium alleyway following social media claims

A protest has been organised aimed at making an alleyway in Headingley a "safer place to be".

Wednesday, 28th October 2020, 3:02 pm

The Reclaim Headingley Stadium Alleyway event, set to take place on Friday (October 30), follows social media rumours about recent sexual assaults in the ginnel, which runs between St Michael's Lane and Kirkstall Lane.

It is used as a shortcut to avoid walking around the stadium, but many women in the popular student area have said they do not feel safe using it.

Almost 10,000 people have also backed a petition calling on safety measures to be implemented.

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The St Michael's Lane end of the ginnel (photo: Google).

But West Yorkshire Police said it had no record of an alleged incident on October 22, despite claims on social media.

A separate incident was reported to police in late September, but a police spokesperson said no evidence was found to support the claim, despite a thorough investigation.

A petition created by Bethany Welsh claims the alley had seen "several cases" of sexual violence and assault.

She wrote: "Women who walk down this alley are unsafe as they have been targeted for many years.

The alleyway by Headingley Stadium (photo: Google).

"It seems that no action has come from these crimes and I feel that something needs to be dramatically changed.

"Some form of safety procedure needs to be implemented in this alley so women are not at the hands of this dreadful abuse.

"No woman should ever feel like they are in fear whilst walking.

I think it’s time we all came together to raise awareness of these dreadful crimes that are continually happening.

"It is time that women feel safe."

The alley runs between the constituencies of Leeds North West MP Alex Sobel and Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves.

They both posted statements to their social media pages, saying they were "extremely concerned" to hear of the reports.

Mr Sobel wrote: "The ginnel is located on the border between my constituency and that of my colleague Rachel Reeves MP, so we are working closely together to address this serious issue and to raise it with the police and Leeds City Council.

"I understand that the local ward councillors, Cllr Al Garthwaite, Cllr Neil Walshaw and Cllr Jonathan Pryor are looking into installing CCTV at key points along the alleyway.

"They are also looking into cutting back the overhanging hedges and foliage which currently obstructs the light.

"The ward councillors have written to local residents and are liaising with the police, who will be upping their patrols."

Ms Reeves said: "Alex and I will continue to monitor the situation closely and keep working with Leeds City Council, the local ward councillors and the police to ensure that this issue is addressed, as the safety of residents is our primary concern."

The protest, set to start at noon on Friday in St Michael's Lane, will be Covid-19 safe, according to the event Facebook page.

Attendees are encouraged to stay at home if they feel unwell, wear a mask, socially distance and bring hand sanitiser.

Rhiannon Griffiths, Political and Campaigning Officer for the Leeds University Union Abuse Society and organiser of the protest, called for the alley to be closed off after 11pm, as there will not be regular, specific patrols around the alley after that time.

She told the YEP: "If women can't use the route then nobody should get to use the route until it's safe for everyone, because all space should be equal.

"We recognise that a lot of people would be disturbed by the route being cut off, but we are going to be distributing leaflets with alternate and safer routes for people in the area to use."

She added: "This is not an isolated incident having been a student here for nearly three years I know that I cannot (as a woman) go out after dark in many well known areas in Leeds, it is not just this alley.

"For example, Woodhouse Moor is a very well known place in regards to rape and assault in Leeds, and people have been campaigning for years to promote the dangers of the park and mitigate the risk of violence that happens there, but yet again nothing has been done."

Ms Griffiths said no action had been taken by the authorities in regards to the alley or other parts of Leeds despite calls to do so.

She added: "I have known this since I came here in 2018. This campaign is giving people a voice and place to show their frustrations.

"It isn't just about locking the alleyway but about making Leeds Council do something on a broader scale to make Leeds safe."

A West Yorkshire Police spokesperson said: "Police are aware of rumour on social media regarding a sexual assault occurring on an alleyway between St Michael’s Lane and Kirkstall Lane on October 22, and of other offences there.

"No such offence has been reported to West Yorkshire Police on this date at this location and we are not aware of any other similar offences there in recent weeks.

"An earlier incident was reported to police on September 27 and required a scene to be cordoned off in an alleyway that runs between Kirkstall Lane and St Michael’s Lane, Headingley,

"That incident was fully investigated and the report was found to be uncorroborated at this time.

"The police are continuing with their enquiries with regards to the matter."

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