Met chief Cressida Dick is ‘willing to change’, says policing minister

Commissioner remains ‘right person for the job’, says Kit Malthouse

Adam Forrest
Friday 01 October 2021 11:18
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Met chief is ‘willing to change’, says policing minister

Metropolitan Police commissioner Dame Cressida Dick is “willing to change” and can lead reforms at the force, the policing minister has claimed.

The police chief is under intense pressure to resign after details emerged of serious failures in the build-up to Sarah Everard’s killing, saying the murder had brought “shame” on her force.

But policing minister Kit Malthouse defended the commissioner – saying she had “one of the top three most difficult jobs in the country” and remained the “right person for the job”.

The Conservative minister told Sky News: “I want a police leader who is transparent, willing to learn, willing to change, and has a commitment not to be defensive about the failings of the organisation – and I think that’s what we’re seeing in Cressida Dick.”

Describing Dame Cressida as “dedicated and talented”, he added: “She is committed to whatever changes come out of the lessons learned of this horrible episode.”

Mr Malthouse said the crimes of “monster” Wayne Couzens – the Met Police officer sentenced to a whole-life term for the murder of Sarah Everard – had shaken public trust in the police.

“It’s struck a devastating blow for the confidence people have in police officers out in the public realm,” said the policing minister. “Thousands and thousands of police officers will have to work harder, much harder, to win public trust.”

Tory MP Caroline Nokes, chair of the women and equalities committee, joined the former Labour justice secretary Harriet Harman and a chorus of other leading figures in calling for the commissioner to step down.

Ms Harman, who chairs parliament’s joint human rights committee, told the commissioner in a letter it was “not possible” for her to stay in post as “women’s confidence in the police has been shattered”.

Ms Nokes told The Independent: “It is clear that change is needed in the Met, to make sure the confidence of women is restored. Rebuilding the trust that is needed will be an enormous challenge for Cressida Dick, and one I am not convinced she can meet.”

The Met commissioner – heckled by people calling for her resignation outside the Old Bailey on Thursday – said Sarah Everard’s murder has brought “shame” on the force, admitting: “A precious bond of trust has been damaged.”

Dame Cressida promised to learn “any lessons” from the case, but has faced heavy criticism for the failure to put forward any reforms or new strategy on violence against women and girls.

The force admitted on Thursday that a 2015 allegation of indecent exposure linked to Couzens was missed during his vetting process, and that investigations continue into whether he was responsible for other crimes.

Five officers are reportedly under investigation for sharing offensive material with Couzens in a WhatsApp group before the killing.

The Met has also taken the extraordinary step of issuing safety advice to women who are suspicious of male officers, suggesting they “shout out to a passer-by, run into a house or wave a bus down” if in fear.

Mr Malthouse said it would be “perfectly reasonable” for anyone approached by a lone police officer who has concerns to call 999 and seek reassurance. “I’m afraid that’s where we’ve got to,” he told Sky News.

Labour MP Jess Phillips, shadow minister for domestic violence and safeguarding, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that “it is not women who need advice in this space” – calling on the government and police forces to take complaints more seriously and “prioritise” violence against women and girls.

She added: “If I’d been Sarah Everard that night, I would have got in the car … So the suggestion that somehow we have to change our behaviour, once again, is a bit tiring.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer rejected calls for Dame Cressida to be replaced in the wake of the case, but said called for the law on violence against women and girls to be strengthened. “We need a victims’ law. We have needed a victims’ law for years,” he said.

Home secretary Priti Patel said there were “serious questions to be asked” of Scotland Yard, but did not call for Dame Cressida’s resignation.

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