Too Little, Too Late? After Sarah Everard, Women Urged by UK Police to Challenge Arresting Officers
09:52 GMT 01.10.2021 (Updated: 13:02 GMT 01.03.2022)
Former Metropolitan Police Officer PC Wayne Couzens has been given a whole life sentence for kidnapping, raping and murdering Sarah Everard. He abducted her after showing her his warrant card and pretending he was arresting her for breaching the Covid laws.
Women on social media have reacted angrily after the Metropolitan Police urged them to challenge single plain clothes officers who try to stop or arrest them.
On Thursday, 30 September, police officer Wayne Couzens was told he would die in prison
as he was sentenced for killing Sarah Everard after carrying out a fake arrest on the grounds of breaching lockdown legislation as she walked home from a friend’s house in March.
Her body was later found 80 miles away, burned and dumped in a pond in woods in Kent.
There have been calls for the resignation of the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Cressida Dick, after it emerged that Couzens was suspected of indecent exposure at the time of the Sarah Everard murder.
On Thursday, Ms Dick said: “I am absolutely horrified that this man used his position of trust to deceive and coerce Sarah, and I know you all are too. His actions were a gross betrayal of everything policing stands for.”
She promised to rebuild the public’s trust in the police and said she would work hard to improve women’s safety.
Later the Met said: “We will soon publish a new strategy for tackling violence against women and girls. This will outline how we will prioritise action against sexual and violent predatory offenders.”
The force also said it was stepping up “reassurance patrols” in “hotspot” locations where women were often harassed and promise to deploy 650 new officers into shopping and entertainment districts.
But the Met then went on to say: “It is unusual for a single plain clothes police officer to engage with anyone in London. If that does happen..and you do find yourself in an interaction with a sole police officer and you are on your own, it is entirely reasonable for you to seek further reassurance of that officer’s identity and intentions.”
They urged women to ask them for “independent verification of what they say” and ask them to contact a senior officer to confirm they are a genuine officer who is on duty.
But this advice has been greeted with derision by many women on social media.
Some said the police should simply ban the practice of single plain clothes officers stopping women and others said that in reality a woman who challenged such an officer was likely to be charged with resisting arrest.
Sentencing Couzens, the judge Lord Justice Fulford said: “In this country it is expected that the police will act in the public interest; indeed, the authority of the police is to a truly significant extent dependent on the public’s consent, and the power of officers to detain, arrest and otherwise control important aspects of our lives is only effective because of the critical trust that we repose in the constabulary, that they will act lawfully and in the best interests of society.”
“If that is undermined, one of the enduring safeguards of law and order in this country is inevitably jeopardised,” he added.
The Metropolitan Police have also been criticised for failing to pick up on the danger Couzens posed despite a number of troubling issues, including the fact that he was apparently nicknamed The Rapist by colleagues at the Civil Nuclear Constabulary because of comments he had made about women.
Couzens was also linked to an allegation of indecent exposure at a McDonald’s fast food restaurant in south London a few days before Sarah Everard’s murder.
In a police statement they said: “The Met received an allegation of indecent exposure some 72 hours before Sarah was abducted. That crime was allocated for investigation but by the time of Sarah’s abduction it was not concluded.
”The progress of that investigation was voluntarily referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct and is subject to an investigation by them. It also remains the subject of a live criminal inquiry.”