Inquiry to Examine Police Failures Exposed by Sarah Everard Murder

Inquiry to Examine Police Failures Exposed by Sarah Everard Murder
Home Secretary Priti Patel speaks at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, England, on Oct. 5, 2021. (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
Lily Zhou

A new inquiry has been launched to identify systemic failures that allowed Sarah Everard’s murderer to be employed as a police officer, the Home Office announced on Tuesday.

Wayne Couzens, 48, was jailed for life on Thursday for the kidnap, rape, and murder of the 33-year-old marketing executive. Couzens was a serving Metropolitan Police officer when he abducted his victim by making a fake arrest on March 3.

Announcing the inquiry, Home Secretary Priti Patel said the “tragic events have 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,” Patel said in a statement.

“The public have a right to know what failures enabled his continued employment as a police officer and an inquiry will give the independent oversight needed to ensure something like this can never happen again,” she added.

The first part of the inquiry will draw on investigations by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) to trace Couzens’s steps leading up to his conviction, establishing a definitive account of his conduct and missed opportunities to detect signs leading to his crimes.

The IOPC is currently conducting a number of investigations related to Couzens, including how Kent Police and the Met handled allegations of indecent exposure now linked to Couzens.

The second part of the new inquiry will examine “any specific issues raised by the first part of the inquiry, which could include wider issues across policing—including vetting practices, professional standards and discipline, and workplace behaviour.”

To further inform the inquiry, Patel is also expected to write to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services, asking the independent body to conduct a thematic inspection of vetting and counter-corruption procedures in policing across England and Wales, including forces’ ability to detect and deal with misogynistic and predatory behaviour.

The Home Office said the inquiry will be non-statutory at this time to make sure it’s conducted “as swiftly as possible,” adding that it can be converted to a statutory inquiry if required.

Meanwhile, Patel will also chair a new task force to drive cross-government action on tackling violence against women and girls to help maintain public confidence in policing, with its first meeting expected this autumn, the Home Office said.

The task force will report to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who chairs the Crime and Justice Task Force.

Labour’s Yvette Cooper, chairwoman of the Commons Home Affairs committee, wrote on Twitter that the inquiry was “very welcome” and it was “important that it looks more widely at handling of allegations of violence against women and girls by police officers and staff.”

But the plans came under fire from shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds, after Johnson initially dodged calls to back a public inquiry.

“Labour has been calling for a full independent inquiry for days, yet the prime minister refused to support one. Now the home secretary has half-heartedly announced one, but not put it on a robust, statutory footing to ensure there are no barriers in the way to getting answers,” he said.

PA contributed to this report.
Lily Zhou is an Irish-based reporter covering UK news for The Epoch Times.
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