Wayne Couzens: Met Police officers probed over ‘misogynistic and racist’ WhatsApp messages remain on duty

Decision to let officers keep working criticised as ‘evidence of institutional misogyny’

Lamiat Sabin
Friday 01 October 2021 21:52
<p>Sisters Uncut protesters outside the Old Bailey earlier this week where Couzens was jailed for life for kidnap, rape, and murder</p>

Sisters Uncut protesters outside the Old Bailey earlier this week where Couzens was jailed for life for kidnap, rape, and murder

Two Metropolitan Police officers allegedly involved in a chat group that included Wayne Couzens remain on duty while an investigation is carried out, it has emerged.

Two officers from two other forces, Norfolk Police and the Civil Nuclear constabulary (CNC), have ben suspended after they were accused of being involved in a WhatsApp group where misogynistic, racist and homophobic messages were allegedly shared.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has said it is investigating the conduct of five serving officers and a former Met Police officer over the group.

They are alleged to have exchanged “discriminatory messages” over the course of seven months in 2019. The texts were uncovered during the police investigation into Sarah Everard’s murder.

The former Met Police officer being probed over the messages is believed to be Wayne Couzens, who was jailed on Thursday for raping, kidnapping and murdering Ms Everard.

Couzens was a Met Police officer at the time he abused emergency Covid pandemic police powers to trick Sarah Everard – who was walking home from a friend’s house in south London – into his car in a fake arrest in March. The married father-of-two kidnapped, raped and murdered her, before burning her body in a refrigerator, and putting her remains in a pond.

After his phone was seized by police, Couzens was found to have been in a WhatsApp group with the four officers and one former officer.

Scotland Yard confirmed to The Independent that two serving officers in the group had been placed on restricted duties but continued to work.

Their position contrasts with that of Norfolk Police and the CNC, which decided to suspend their officers despite them reportedly facing less serious allegations.

The Met’s decision was criticised by women’s groups and former police chiefs.

Messages on the WhatsApp group included the alleged use of misogynistic slurs, and the messages recovered so far by investigators began in March 2019, two years before Couzens murdered Ms Everard.

Caroline Mackechnie-Jarvis, chief executive of Women’s Aid Luton, said that the Met officers remaining on duty was “yet more evidence of the institutional misogyny that exists in [the force]”.

She added: “Why are these officers still working?? I am heartbroken for all the victims and their families. Action needs to be taken urgently to address this.”

Former Labour MP Liz McInnes said: “For an example of how seriously the Met takes misogyny and racism, you only need to know that the officers investigated over Couzens WhatsApp group are still on duty.

“[Met Police commissioner] Cressida Dick doesn’t care – she must stand down now as her position is untenable.”

Brian Paddick, a former Met deputy assistant commissioner and now the Liberal Democrats’ home affairs spokesperson in the House of Lords, said his former force risked appearing not to take the issues seriously enough.

He said: “If I were still in the Met, I would be looking for every opportunity to reassure women in particular that we take this very seriously, and that does not appear to be the message the Met is sending at the moment.”

Sue Fish, a former chief constable of Nottinghamshire, told The Guardian the Met allowing the officers to keep working “beggars belief”.

“It sends the most appalling message,” she added. “That clearly demonstrates the Met does not get it … does not get the seriousness.”

The IOPC said of its investigation: “They are being investigated for gross misconduct for allegedly sending messages of a discriminatory and/or inappropriate nature, and for allegedly failing to challenge the messages sent by the others.

“Two of the MPS [Met] officers and the former MPS officer have also been notified that they are being criminally investigated for improper use of the public electronic communications network under section 127 of the Communications Act.”

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