Sarah Everard: Priti Patel announces inquiry into Wayne Couzens and ‘wider issues across policing’

‘We need answers as to why this was allowed to happen,’ home secretary tells party conference

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Tuesday 05 October 2021 13:19
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Priti Patel has announced an inquiry into how Sarah Everard’s murderer was allowed to remain in the police and “wider issues” raised by the case.

Addressing the Conservative Party conference, the home secretary said the killing had “exposed unimaginable failures in policing”.

“It is abhorrent that a serving police officer was able to abuse his position of power, authority and trust to commit such a horrific crime,” she added.

“The public have a right to know what systematic failures enabled his continued employment as a police officer. We need answers as to why this was allowed to happen.

“I can confirm today, there will be an inquiry, to give the independent oversight needed, to ensure something like this can never happen again.”

Questions have been mounting over vetting and monitoring processes after it emerged that Wayne Couzens was allowed to guard sensitive sites despite previous indecent exposure incidents.

Several of his former colleagues are under investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) over material shared in a WhatsApp group including the murderer.

The Home Office said that the first part of the inquiry would examine Couzens’ conduct leading up to his conviction, as well as any missed opportunities.

The second part will look at “wider issues across policing”, which could include vetting practices, professional standards and discipline, and workplace behaviour.

The home secretary is also commissioning an inspection of vetting and counter-corruption procedures by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, which will include how forces detect “misogynistic and predatory behaviour”.

The announcement came a day after the Metropolitan Police commissioner announced a separate independent review of “standards and culture”.

Met Police launch independent review after Sarah Everard murder

Dame Cressida Dick said the review would cover how officers in Britain’s largest force treat each other and the public, adding: “Our leadership, our processes, our systems, our people, our training, everything will be looked at.”

The commissioner, who is the UK’s most senior police officer, has refused to resign over the Everard case and pressure over the handling of a vigil following the murder.

On Monday, another Metropolitan Police officer, David Carrick, appeared in court accused of raping a woman in St Albans.

The Home Office said that Ms Patel would be chairing a new taskforce to “drive cross-government action on tackling violence against women and girls” and help maintain public confidence in policing.

It will look at how the police currently respond to sexual offences that are considered low-level, such as indecent exposure, which was committed by Couzens before the murder.

Prosecutions have hit record lows in recent years, with only 3.5 per cent of all sexual offences and 1.5 per cent of rapes now resulting in a charge in England and Wales.

When challenged on the figures during a Sky News interview on Tuesday, Boris Johnson admitted that there was a feeling of “fury, of frustration, betrayal, on the part of millions of people, most of them women about, about what's happening”.

The prime minister refused to directly apologise for failings, or concede that budget cuts implemented since 2010 have affected the ability of police, prosecutors and the court system to deal with offences.

He said: “I think that certainly, on behalf of government overall, I think that this is something where government, the whole system has not done well enough.”

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