Sarah Everard murder: All police officers should be re-vetted following Wayne Couzens case, says former chief superintendent

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Every police officer in the UK should be re-vetted following the sentencing of Wayne Couzens, a former senior Metropolitan Police chief superintendent has said.

Parm Sandhu told Sky News she had "real concerns" more people "with questionable backgrounds" had been missed under current vetting procedures.

She spoke after Couzens was given a whole life order for the kidnap, rape, and murder of Sarah Everard.

The 48-year-old serving Met officer abducted Ms Everard under the guise of an arrest as she walked home from a friend's house in south London on 3 March.

The police watchdog is investigating five officers over claims they traded misogynistic, racist, and homophobic material with Couzens over WhatsApp months before he killed Ms Everard, according to a report in The Times.

Ms Sandhu told Sky News' Trevor Phillips on Sunday that Couzens was a "monster in uniform", but added: "Unfortunately there is a culture where he was allowed to flourish.

"And the WhatsApp group that he was a part of, and other people are, is just one sign of that."

"Everybody who works in policing now should be re-vetted. Those people who got through the vetting procedure 20 years ago, 30 years ago, all of them," she said.

"Every single person needs to be reviewed and if anything comes up in their past - it doesn't have to be a conviction, it just needs to come to notice, because this man did come to notice.

"It needs to be done now as an urgent measure to reassure the public and rebuild the trust and confidence that policing has lost, but it needs to be done on a regular basis so that we don't have anybody that even comes close to the actions of Wayne Couzens."

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She continued: "This man not only got through the vetting after indecency offences in 2015, in 2018 he was taken into the Met - he was then given a gun to carry on the streets of London, so that was another form of vetting."

However, Dal Babu, a former Met chief superintendent, told Sky News he did not think there was the infrastructure to re-vet all officers.

He said: "The idea of doing a full re-vetting all individual officers is a huge task and I am not entirely sure that is what's needed.

"You do have an ongoing vetting process throughout when you are in the service."

He said, however, there needed to be a review of the process that allowed Couzens to join the force.

Ms Everard's case has led to calls for Met Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick to step down in light of the erosion of trust in the force.

Speaking to Sky News, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss did not give her backing to such demands.

But she did say it had become "abundantly clear" that there needed to be a "change of culture in the police" and the wider criminal justice system.

"One of the things I'm focused on as foreign secretary is dealing with sexual violence in war, but we certainly need to address that issue at home in the UK," she told deputy political editor Sam Coates.

"Because I'm concerned that women don't feel safe enough on the streets and that we do need a change of culture in the police and we do need a change of culture across the justice system.

"People perpetrating those types of crimes need to understand that they're going to be brought to justice."

Sir Iain Duncan Smith, the former Conservative Party leader, told Sky News it is time for a "new broom" in the Metropolitan Police and said there were "issues here about leadership and focus".

He added: "The idea that a man can flash as a police officer ... and people think it's funny. I think that's the thing that's really failed. Why in hell's name wasn't he [Wayne Couzens] immediately reported, suspended at least pending full investigation, or sacked?"

It has also since emerged that Couzens was deployed to the Parliamentary Estate five times last year.

The Commons Speaker is seeking urgent talks with Commissioner Dick following the revelation.

Ms Sandhu said the only way to rebuild public trust would be if everyone working in policing was re-vetted, and also called for an independent inquiry.

"I believe there are other individuals who have got questionable backgrounds who should be being looked at, not just in the Met but right up and down the country, and I think we have missed that," she said.

Last year, Sky News revealed that hundreds of UK police officers had criminal convictions - including for assault, burglary and animal cruelty.

Ms Sandhu continued: "Instead of looking backwards, we should be looking forward and making sure those individuals are being targeted now."

This process should be repeated on a "regular basis", she added.

It comes as Police Scotland introduced a "simple" verification check for lone officers, to provide reassurance to the public they are genuine.

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