Voices: Sarah Everard’s death was meant to be a watershed moment – what happened?
Two years ago, Wayne Couzens, a serving member of the elite and armed parliamentary and diplomatic protection order of the Metropolitan Police, abducted, raped and murdered Sarah Everard using Covid restrictions as the reason to illegally apprehend her.
In the search for Sarah, police told women that the only way to guarantee our safety was to stay in our own homes; we were already in a lockdown. Most of us remained traumatised by those weeks and what we learnt about Couzens and his decades of flashing women – being nicknamed “the rapist” by his colleagues and hiding in plain sight as an armed police officer, before committing the worst crime imaginable.
As one of the women who attempted to hold a vigil for Sarah and all women whose lives have been affected by male violence, I learnt first-hand what the Met Police do if you dare try to stand up against them. They claimed our gathering would be “unlawful” and we risked arrest if it went ahead. Of course, many women did still come together in Sarah’s name, and those arrests did indeed happen.
We were told that the police were more shocked and angered than any of us could possibly be; that real change would happen. Boris Johnson initially promised that misogyny would be made a hate crime before backtracking and saying that would “overwhelm” the police.
He was right, the misogyny in this country is overwhelming. A woman is killed every three days at the hands of a man in the UK. We are in the middle of an epidemic of male violence against us, with no end in sight.
In the last month, we learnt that the most prolific sex offender in the history of the country, serving officer David Carrick, used his badge to rape and imprison women whilst serving on the same command as Couzens.
One of his victims reported that Carrick had raped her in July of 2021, whilst Couzens was awaiting sentencing. Carrick was not even removed from active duty. He would go on to rape and imprison other women and brag about it to his victims.
And now we hear that former acting commissioner for the Met, Stephen House, is said to have recently called the bulk of rape complaints “regretful sex”.
The police seem to want us to believe that Couzens and Carrick are aberrations that slipped through the net or are “bad apples”; when, in fact, the system was built to protect men like them.
We need to instigate a zero-tolerance policy in all police forces for violence against women and girls. We must eliminate the shroud of secrecy and anonymity that many officers found guilty of gross misconduct are allowed to hide behind. We must prevent them from staying off-radar and retiring with their pensions intact – and we must strengthen (and, indeed, standardise) protections for whistleblowers.
In the last two years, only 12 of 519 officers accused of domestic violence were removed from the force. Only 10 of 412 investigated for online abuse were removed. Only 1 in 10 officers found guilty of gross misconduct are removed from forces in England and Wales. This is unacceptable and not a route to rebuilding the trust of women. And one in 100 police officers in England and Wales faced a criminal charge last year.
What do we need to do? Well, most of all, we must believe women who are both victims of (and witnesses to) abuse.
Why? Because diminishing, ridiculing and silencing women is what has gotten us to this point. I’ll give you some very specific women to listen to:
Listen to Baroness Casey, whose damning interim report came out in October about misconduct within the police. This report was requested by Cressida Dick – and she is probably grateful not to have been in place when it landed. The rest of the report is due to be made publicly available later this month. It is expected to be wide-reaching and detail myriad ways the Met Police fail the women they are meant to protect and serve
Listen to the Centre for Women’s Justice, which has laid out an extensive 12-point plan for police reform. Every point of this needs to be responded to and implemented
Listen to Dr Katrin Hohl and Professor Betsy Stanko, who are heading up Operation Soteria Bluestone, to increase the number of rape cases that make it to court
If the police really want to increase the trust of women, they should conduct an immediate statutory review and make it public.
And I’d like to put this question to Met commissioner Mark Rowley: why does he consistently refuse to meet me on any broadcast platform? Is it because it is too hard to listen to women telling the truth?
Jamie Klingler co-organised #ReclaimTheseStreets after the murder of Sarah Everard, and in that time, the group has gripped global media, taken the Metropolitan Police to court and raised half a million pounds