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Voices: The latest Wayne Couzens revelations are shocking and sordid – and could be the final straw for the police

The police missed clear chances to identify Wayne Couzens as a potential sex offender before he kidnapped and murdered Sarah Everard in March 2021, it was revealed yesterday.

You would be forgiven if you checked the date on your news website or paper with confusion upon seeing these headlines. Or wondered if you had unexpectedly time-travelled back to autumn 2021, when the former Metropolitan Police officer first appeared in court. After all, this “news” will come as no surprise to anyone who has followed the heinous case.

Yet it is news, because the man described by former Metropolitan Police commissioner Cressida Dick as a “bad apple” has just pleaded guilty to three offences of indecent exposure, meaning reporting restrictions surrounding his case have been lifted – and more details of his sordid conduct can be revealed.

On 13 November 2020, he stepped out of a woodland in Deal, Kent, naked – and masturbated as a woman cycled past. Detailing the case, Mrs Justice May said: “She was scared and shaken, and could do nothing but cycle past, up the hill, as fast as she was able.”

A few months later, on two different occasions on 14 and 27 February 2021, Couzens exposed his genitals to staff at a drive-through fast food restaurant in Kent. He is said to have looked straight at them as he sat in his car, showing his erect penis, while handing them his card to pay for food. The senior judge said: “The female staff were shaken, upset and angry.”

This only adds to what we already knew of Couzens’ behaviour: that when he was sentenced in September 2021, he had exposed himself three times over the years since 2015 – yet had been allowed to remain in the force without as much as a slap on the wrist. He even kept his gun licence.

We also knew that one of these incidents in the drive-through restaurant (because yes, once again, there were more than one) took place just six days before Everard’s kidnap, rape and murder.

And we knew that his colleagues reportedly nicknamed him “the rapist” because he made women who worked with him feel uncomfortable.

Couzens was handed a whole-life order in 2021 for his crimes, meaning he will likely die in prison. The Met has issued fresh statements about “flushing out the corrupt and the criminal” from the force – but their clean-up act is far from done.

Indeed, strip away the police’s handwringing, and their mea culpas, and consider the bare bones of the case once more, and it becomes clear that the Met’s attempt to polish its reputation is less an uphill battle than a vertical nuclear war.

A serving police officer stopped a woman during lockdown, flashed his warrant card, claimed he was enforcing lockdown measures, handcuffed her, and put her in the back of his car.

Who among us could honestly say that, when flashed with the paraphernalia of authority and establishment, we would have assumed the worst? Who among us can honestly say we would not have bowed to society’s tightly woven system and be taxied to our grave?

And who among us can now say that the sight of a police uniform still arouses a sense of authority, order and protection, rather than apprehension?

Last week, another former Met Police officer, David Carrick, was jailed for life for raping and assaulting at least 12 women over a 17-year period.

The firearms officer pleaded guilty to 85 serious offences, including 48 rapes, with the judge saying he had taken “monstrous advantage” of his position as a police officer.

The revelations do not stop there. It was reported in January that more than 1,000 serving Met Police officers had been accused of sex offences or domestic abuse in the past 10 years. Last year, the results of an inquiry that had been launched in 2018 revealed that officers based at Charing Cross police station had joked about rape and exchanged offensive social media messages.

This gross litany of scandals, seasoned with the latest news about the force’s neglect to act in the face of the most unconcealed evidence, will sully its reputation for far longer than Couzens rots in prison.