Sarah Everard murder was ‘a watershed moment for women’s safety that was wasted’

Ms Everard, 33, was raped and killed by serving Metropolitan police officer Wayne Couzens as she walked home in south London on March 3 last year.

Margaret Davis
Sunday 27 February 2022 02:45
Jamie Klingler from Reclaim These Streets, pictured on Clapham Common in the weeks after Ms Everard’s death, has said opportunities to improve women’s safety have been wasted (Aaron Chown/PA)
Jamie Klingler from Reclaim These Streets, pictured on Clapham Common in the weeks after Ms Everard’s death, has said opportunities to improve women’s safety have been wasted (Aaron Chown/PA)

The impact of the murder of Sarah Everard was a watershed moment for women’s safety that was wasted by the Government, a campaigner has claimed.

Jamie Klingler from Reclaim These Streets told the PA news agency that misogyny in the Metropolitan Police, Britain’s biggest force, must be rooted out with a full public inquiry.

Ms Everard, 33, was raped and killed by serving Met officer Wayne Couzens as she walked home in south London on March 3 last year.

He had remained an officer despite twice being accused of indecent exposure – once in 2015 while working for the Civil Nuclear Constabulary (CNC), where colleagues nicknamed him “the rapist”, and again in the days before the murder.

Sarah Everard, 33, whose murder by a serving police officer sparked public outrage (Family handout/PA)

Ms Klingler said: “It was a watershed moment and it was a watershed moment that they wasted.

“It was a watershed moment that could have changed our lives, that could have made our daughters safer, that could make us safer.

“And there were choices made for it not to be a watershed moment.”

Campaigners including Reclaim These Streets are part of a legal bid to try to force the Government to hold a statutory public inquiry to investigate misogyny in policing.

Currently, Dame Elish Angiolini is leading the first part of a non-statutory inquiry looking at how Couzens was able to work as a police officer for three different forces – Kent police, the CNC and the Met – despite concerns about his behaviour.

Following this, there are plans for a second part that would look at wider issues in policing.

The Met has also commissioned its own review of the culture and standards at the force, including Couzen’s former unit – the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command.

Dame Elish Angiolini is leading an inquiry into how Wayne Couzens was able to remain a police officer despite concerns about his behaviour (Metropolitan Police/PA)

Ms Klingler said: “We absolutely continue to demand a statutory inquiry of police treatment of women, not of Wayne Couzens, not of a single person in a single act.

“We need to overall understand the deep levels of misogyny within the Met, and they need to be exposed and accounted for.

“If there’s not a statutory inquiry, police aren’t required to testify. The families aren’t given legal representation as interested parties. Reclaim These Streets are not given legal representation.

“It just becomes the bogeyman of Wayne Couzens.

“This isn’t one bad apple and there’s no way to fix the force without rooting all of this out.”

The Metropolitan Police is facing serious concern over the behaviour of some officers.

In the wake of Ms Everard’s death, one officer faced misconduct proceedings after sharing a highly offensive meme relating to her kidnap.

Two police officers were jailed after sharing WhatsApp images of the bodies of Bibaa Henry (left) and Nicole Smallman (Victoria Jones/PA)

Constables Deniz Jaffer and Jamie Lewis were jailed for taking photographs of the bodies of murdered Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman and sharing them on WhatsApp.

And, earlier this month, the police watchdog published disturbing misogynist, homophobic and violently racist messages shared by officers based at Charing Cross Police station between 2016 and 2018.

The fallout led to the resignation of Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick after London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he was not satisfied with her response to the scandal.

Ms Klingler described violence against women as “an epidemic”.

The past year has seen a number of high profile alleged stranger murders of women, including the deaths of PCSO Julia James and teachers Sabina Nessa and Ashling Murphy.

Another case saw labourer Valentin Lazar, 21, jailed for life for beating 45-year-old Maria Rawlings to death after a chance meeting on a bus.

Ms Klingler said: “The idea that we can’t just get home safe and alive is insane for half the population.

“It isn’t that we’re harassed once in our lives and then we have a horror story to tell, it’s a constant decision tree of, ‘How do I avoid conflict? How do I not get noticed? How do I avoid putting myself in harm’s way?’

“There’s a woman killed every three days and nobody’s doing anything about it.”

This week police are expected to be told to make tackling violence against women and girls as much a priority as fighting terrorism, child sexual abuse and serious and organised crime.

Commenting on the move, Home Secretary Priti Patel said the safety of women and girls is an “absolute priority”, adding: “I do not accept that violence against them is inevitable.”

The Government is also launching an advertising campaign focusing on “targeting and challenging perpetrators and harmful attitudes”, the Home Office said.

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