Sarah Everard’s murder ‘devastating’ and ‘preventable’, campaigners say

Campaigners have said Sarah Everard’s “devastating” murder was “entirely preventable”, as police chiefs vowed to do better in the wake of the Angiolini Inquiry.

Andrea Simon, director of the End Violence Against Women coalition (EVAW), called on the Government and the police to take urgent action to address the inquiry’s findings.

Inquiry chairwoman Lady Elish Angiolini warned that without a radical overhaul of policing practices and culture, there is “nothing to stop another Couzens operating in plain sight”.

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The Home Secretary said Couzens’ crimes were not a reflection on the majority of dedicated police officers (James Manning/PA)

Reacting to the report, Ms Simon said: “It is absolutely devastating that the abduction, rape and murder of Sarah Everard was entirely preventable.

“It is clear from this report that Couzens should never have been employed as a police officer or permitted to continue a career in policing.

“The government and police leaders must urgently heed the inquiry’s recommendations and work with expert women’s organisations to transform the culture of policing to root out misogyny, racism and other forms of discrimination, and demonstrate transparency and accountability at all levels.

“We will not accept any more failings, excuses and missed opportunities to prevent police perpetrating violence against women and children.”

Domestic abuse commissioner Nicole Jacobs said the report was “seriously damning”.

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Met Police officer Wayne Couzens murdered marketing executive Sarah Everard in March 2021 (Metropolitan Police/PA)

“We can have no more empty words,” she said.

“The inquiry is clear that another Couzens is hiding in plain sight.”

Home Secretary James Cleverly said Couzens’ crimes were not a reflection on the majority of police officers.

“But Sarah was failed in more ways than one by the people who were meant to keep her safe, and it laid bare wider issues in policing and society that need to be urgently fixed,” he said.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan also vowed to ensure “lessons are learned” from the Angiolini Inquiry.

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Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said he was determined to ensure that lessons are learned and acted upon (Victoria Jones/PA)

Mr Khan, who is also the equivalent of the police and crime commissioner for the capital, said in a statement: “I’m determined to ensure lessons are learned and acted upon quickly by the police as part of a process of major reform – not just in London, but across the country – to raise standards, strengthen vetting and, above all else, prevent anything like this from ever happening again.”

He added that police regulations must be “strengthened” to make it harder for those who have faced serious allegations about their behaviour to join any police force.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley said the report was an “urgent call to action”.

“There is nothing we can say to the family of Sarah Everard and all those who loved her that will convey how very sorry we are,” he said.

“Wayne Couzens’ crimes were horrific. The fact that he abused his position as a Metropolitan Police officer to carry them out represents the most appalling betrayal of trust.

“It damages the relationship between the public and the police and exposes long-standing fundamental flaws in the way we decide who is fit to be a police officer and the way we pursue those who corrupt our integrity once they get in.

“The report published today is an urgent call to action for all of us in policing.”

Sir Mark Rowley in conversation with Sir Trevor Phillips
Responding to the Angiolini report, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley said it was an ‘urgent call to action’ (James Manning/PA)

Kent Police also apologised for failing to properly investigate when Couzens was reported for indecent exposure in 2015.

The force said: “Everyone at Kent Police is shocked, appalled and disgusted by the crimes Wayne Couzens committed against Sarah Everard and we share in the collective grief for her loss.

“Part one of the Angiolini Inquiry report has been made available to us today, and whilst we continue to carefully consider its contents, we fully accept the recommendations made of Kent Police.

“We also accept our investigation into a 2015 incident of indecent exposure was flawed due to it being allocated to an officer who was not a trained investigator, and apologise for this failing.”

National Police Chiefs’ Council chairman Gavin Stephens said hearing the inquiry’s findings left him “aghast”.

“Listening this morning to Lady Elish Angiolini’s clear findings of a catalogue of missed opportunities and red flags left me aghast. Police leaders across the United Kingdom will feel the same and take this as an urgent call for action and a reminder of how far we still have to go.

“We are reviewing the recommendations in detail and I do not underestimate just how important this is for all of society.”

Meanwhile, the Information Commissioner said there was a need for “greater transparency” in how information on “disciplinary concerns” about police officers and recruits is shared.

John Edwards, who contributed to the Angiolini Inquiry, said: “This inquiry paints a concerning picture of how disciplinary concerns about police officers and recruits are shared.

“There is no room to hide behind misconceptions of the law on such an important matter: data protection law does not stand in the way of police sharing information about a potential recruit’s previous disciplinary action or warnings, nor does it act as a shield against investigations into police officers.”