Everard inquiry to look at ‘red flags’ in Wayne Couzens’ policing career

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An inquiry investigating how a serving Metropolitan Police officer was able to abduct, rape and murder Sarah Everard will look at whether any “red flags were missed” earlier in his career.

Home Secretary Priti Patel has published the terms of reference for the first phase of the Angiolini Inquiry – named after Dame Elish Angiolini QC who is leading it – which will consider the “systemic failures” that allowed Ms Everard’s killer to be employed as a police officer.

Wayne Couzens is now serving a whole-life order in prison, meaning he will never be released.

The first part of the inquiry will start soon and is intended to conclude this year to make sure the “family get the answers they need”, the Home Office said.

Wayne Couzens
Former Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens is serving a whole-life sentence (Metropolitan Police/PA)

It will seek to establish:

– A timeline of Couzens’ career and “relevant incidents” including “prior allegations of criminal behaviour and/or misconduct”.

– The circumstances and decision making surrounding his vetting and re-vetting, including whether “any potential risks and/or red flags were missed” as well as any matters arising from his transfer between forces.

– His overall conduct, performance, training and any abuse of his police powers.

– The extent to which any issues about his behaviour, particularly in relation to women, were “known and raised by colleagues” including professional standards departments and senior leaders.

The inquiry will analyse documents from the Metropolitan Police, Civil Nuclear Constabulary and Kent Police as well as consider interviews, witness statements and findings from Independent Office for Police Conduct investigations.

The findings from the first part of the inquiry will inform the second – which will look at “broader issues” arising for policing and the protection of women.

Ms Patel said: “I am determined to understand the failings that enabled a serving officer to commit such heinous crimes – we owe an explanation to Sarah’s family and loved ones, and we need to do all in our power to prevent something like this from ever happening again.

“The terms of reference agreed today for the Angiolini Inquiry are vital and will produce learning and recommendations for policing and others. I have assured Dame Elish she has my full support to ensure this inquiry gets the answers the public and the Everard family need as soon as possible.”

Dame Elish, a former lord advocate of Scotland, described the publication of the terms of reference as a “significant step forward to progressing this vital inquiry and ensuring Sarah’s family and the wider public get a full understanding and explanation of the causes of, and factors contributing to, this tragic and harrowing murder.”

Although a non-statutory inquiry has been established, this can be converted to a statutory inquiry, where witnesses can be compelled to give evidence, if required.

The Reclaim These Streets campaign said: “Women deserve a statutory inquiry which addresses the issue of misogyny in the Met head on, which has the voices of victims and their families at its heart, and which the Met Police cannot ignore. In its current form, this inquiry will not deliver that.”

It said by focusing only on Couzens, the investigation “perpetuates the bad apple myth” and fails to tackle the bad behaviour of other officers.

The scope should be widened and the inquiry made statutory to ensure victims and their families including the Everards are core participants with access to free independent legal representation, and that information is not withheld and whistleblowers are protected, Reclaim These Streets said.

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