Hampshire and Dorset police chiefs reach out to public after Wayne Couzens is jailed for life for kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard
POLICE chiefs in Hampshire and Dorset have reached out to the public in the wake of Sarah Everard’s murderer being given a whole life sentence.
Wayne Couzens, who was a serving Metropolitan Police officer, abducted Sarah in London on 3rd March while off-duty before driving to Kent to rape and kill her.
During his sentencing it emerged he had falsely arrested and handcuffed her, claiming she had breached Covid-19 protocols. He had also shown her his police warrant card.
The case had already sent shockwaves through the nation, undermining the trust in police and igniting debate around the issue of male violence against women, and this latest revelation has driven renewed uproar.
Both Hampshire police and crime commissioner (PCC) Donna Jones and Dorset Deputy Chief Constable Sam de Reya accepted that their respective forces would have to work to restore public confidence.
PCC Jones conceded the case would "regrettably have an impact on women’s trust and confidence in policing," adding: "Police legitimacy is hard-earned and easily-lost. Whenever a police officer abuses their position to commit crime, everyone in the wider policing family is tarnished by those actions.
"We must all redouble our efforts to demonstrate a personal and collective commitment to protect communities, and particularly vulnerable women and girls."
PCC Jones said violence against women and girls was an "epidemic" and called for policing culture to change and the government to bring forward a victim’s bill. "What is needed now is a whole-system approach to tackling wider societal attitudes and behaviours," she said.
"To ensure others play their part, we again stress that the Serious Violence Duty contained within the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill must be extended to require all agencies to act to tackle and prevent violence against women and girls; including through prevention and relationship education.
"And we need the government to bring forward a Victims’ Bill to ensure victims of crime and their families have their rights enshrined in law."
PCC De Reya said Dorset officers would always look to verify their identity when engaging with a member of the public.
"We know confidence in policing, particularly from women and girls, has been significantly impacted by this tragedy and the thought that a serving officer abused his position in this way is sickening. Couzens has betrayed everything we stand for," she said.
"We must and will continue to work harder with every part of the justice system, partner agencies and the communities we serve to rebuild trust and make our streets as safe as possible for women and girls.
"Police officers will not always be in uniform, but it would be extremely unusual for an officer in plain clothes to be working alone. If they are, they should be calling for assistance with other officers arriving very soon to support them to help you if you are in need.
"In light of the actions of Couzens it is right that police officers expect and are tolerant of those who wish to be further reassured. They will want to explain and reassure who they are, what they are doing and why – that must only be expected and respected from our communities."
Anyone who cannot verify an officer’s identity, or feels in imminent danger, should seek assistance by shouting out to another member of the public, flagging down a car or dialling 999.