Sarah Everard's killer Wayne Couzens sentenced to life in prison

LONDON – The police officer who kidnapped, raped and murdered Sarah Everard was sentenced to life in prison on Thursday by Britain’s hig...


LONDON – The police officer who kidnapped, raped and murdered Sarah Everard was sentenced to life in prison on Thursday by Britain’s highest criminal court, after two days of hearings that have rekindled outrage over the way the police in London deals with cases of violence against women.

The sentence was announced a day after prosecutors explained how the officer, Wayne Couzens, abused his authority and, under the guise of coronavirus restrictions imposed during a nationwide lockdown in March, deceived Ms Everard into believing she was under arrest. Prosecutors said he used his official credentials, equipment and training to commit the crime, revelations that shocked human rights activists and lawmakers.

Judge Adrian Bruce Fulford, in explaining why Mr Couzens would not be eligible for parole, said he had “irreparably damaged the lives of Sarah Everard’s family and friends” and “eroded public confidence in is entitled to have in the police force in England and Wales.

Judge Fulford added that “the abuse of the role of a police officer” warrants the harshest possible sentence.

On Thursday there were also fresh calls for the resignation of Cressida Dick, the London Metropolitan Police Chief, who has come under fire for the department’s response to the murder since Ms Everard’s charred body was found in the offices. woods near Kent last March.

Harriet Harman, an opposition Labor MP and chair of the parliamentary human rights committee, said she believed it was impossible for Ms Dick to make the necessary changes to the force.

“Women must be sure that the police are there to put them to safety and not to endanger them” she wrote in a letter to Mrs. Dick. “Women must be able to trust the police so as not to be afraid of them. “

In a separate letter to the government, she called for the suspension of “all serving officers against whom there is an allegation of violence against a woman”, as well as a number of other measures to reform the police.

Ms Dick, who had appeared in court throughout the sentencing hearings, acknowledged that public confidence in the police had been “shaken” and apologized on behalf of the ministry.

“As commissioner, I will do everything in my power to make sure we learn lessons,” she said outside the London courtroom on Thursday. She admitted that Ms. Everard’s murder and the attacks on other women have “raised important questions about women’s safety.”

Ms Dick added that she was horrified that Mr Couzens had used his “position of trust to deceive and coerce Sarah”.

Many activists have criticized what they see as police failure to investigate Mr Couzens’ previous sexual misconduct charges. The Independent Police Ethics Office opened an investigation this summer on charges that Kent police failed to investigate reports of Mr Couzens’ indecent exhibitionism in 2015.

The office is also investigating whether London police did not investigate two more reports of indecent exposure incidents linked to Mr Couzens in February, just days before Ms Everard was murdered. Sal Naseem, a regional director for the group, said he could not provide updates on the investigation.

“But after today’s conviction, we will seek to resolve these issues as quickly as possible,” he said.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement that the government will do “everything possible to prevent these heinous crimes and keep our communities safe”.

“Our police are here to protect us – and I know the officers will share our shock and devastation at the utter betrayal of this duty,” he said. “People need to be able to walk our streets without fear of injury and with full confidence that the police are there to keep them safe. “

After Ms Everard’s death, the government ordered a report an independent watchdog group to examine the police response to violence against women and girls in England and Wales. The report, released this month, called for sweeping changes across the system.

Zoë Billingham, an inspector for Her Majesty’s Police and Fire and Rescue Inspector, the watchdog group, told the BBC Woman’s Hour on Thursday that Mr Couzens’ actions had “struck a hammer blow at the very heart of the legitimacy of the police “.

“We cannot regard Wayne Couzens as a unique piece, a rarity, an aberration,” she told the BBC. “We need to see every police force in England and Wales stepping forward to tell their communities precisely what they are doing to keep women safe.”

Mr. Couzens’ conviction comes less than two weeks after the murder of another young woman, Sabine Nessa, in south-east London, a case that has escalated calls for better protection for women.

At Wednesday’s sentencing hearing in Mr Couzens’ case, Tom Little, a prosecutor, revealed poignant new details about Ms Everard’s murder in March. Those present, including Ms. Everard’s family, heard how Mr. Couzens went “to hunt a young woman alone to kidnap and rape”.

Mr Couzens confronted Ms Everard as she was driving home from a friend’s house, the prosecutor said, and made a “false arrest” to get her into his car.

Mr Couzens, who was a diplomatic protection officer with the Metropolitan Police, presented Ms Everard with a police ID card and handcuffed her before driving her out of town, raping her and ultimately killing her and to set his body on fire, Mr. Peu said.

His remains were discovered seven days later in a wooded area in Kent, nearly 80 miles from London. Judge Fulford reflected on Ms Everard’s likely state of mind during the trip and said what she had to endure was “as dark and scary as one can imagine”.

When Mr Couzens’ defense attorney spoke on behalf of his client on Thursday, he said his client did not dispute any of the facts presented by the prosecution but objected to the possibility of a sentence in life, citing his guilty plea among other factors.

UK judges are usually required to sentence those convicted of murder to life, but those sentenced to life in prison rarely serve the full sentence behind bars.

There is, however, an exception for the most serious murder cases, when a judge issues a “lifetime order”, as was the case with Mr. Couzens. In this situation, the offender must remain in prison for life without any possibility of early release.



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Newsrust - US Top News: Sarah Everard's killer Wayne Couzens sentenced to life in prison
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