• Thursday, July 25, 2024

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Accelerate reforms to stop violence against women, says Priti Patel

Findings of an inquiry into the rape and murder of Everard by a British police officer three years ago last Thursday (2) called for a major overhaul of police vetting and recruitment

The murder of teacher Sabina Nessa in September 2021 in London, sparked anger at the rise in violence against women in the capital

By: Eastern Eye

FORMER home secretary Dame Priti Patel has called for an “acceleration” in reforms to support those affected by violence against women in memory of the late Sarah Everard and other women.

Findings of an inquiry into the rape and murder of Everard by a British police officer three years ago last Thursday (2) called for a major overhaul of police vetting and recruitment. Wayne Couzens, who served with the London Metropolitan Police’s diplomatic protection squad, is serving a life sentence for kidnapping and killing the 33-year-old in London in March 2021.

“We must treat this week as another call for action, to accelerate the delivery of reforms, to increase support for those affected by violence against women, and to galvanise us all to play our part to change attitudes in society, in our police and throughout our institutions,” Patel wrote in the Sunday Times (3). “There can be no better way to honour the memory of Sarah Everard and the lives of the many other victims of violence against women.”

An inquiry commissioned by the government found three separate police forces “repeatedly ignored” warning signs about Couzens, including prior alleged sexual offences going back 20 years and money problems.

In the article, Patel said, “For a start, there should be an automatic suspension for any police officer under investigation for sexual abuse or corruption; full public disclose by forces once suspensions take place; and data sharing so no officer with any suspension or behavioural concerns can move freely from force to force.”

LEAD Violence girls INSET Priti Patel GettyImages 1240576198 1
Dame Priti Patel

Lady Elish Angiolini, the author of the inquiry report, said Couzens was “never fit to be a police officer”.

“Failures in recruitment and vetting meant Couzens was able to continue a pleasing career which should have been denied to him,” Angiolini added.

Prime minister Rishi Sunak said he was “sickened by the details that have come to light” and that the police “must urgently make changes” to regain public trust.

Angiolini said police chiefs needed to “radically transform their approach to police culture” and urged every force in the country to “take immediate action”. “Without a significant overhaul, there is nothing to stop another Couzens operating in plain sight,” she said.

Angiolini called for an urgent review of indecent exposure charges against serving officers and said reports of the crime need to be taken seriously. She also recommended that any new candidate applying to become a police officer should undergo an in-person interview and home visit.

Couzens was given a rare whole-life jail term in September 2021 for killing Everard. He arrested her as she walked home in south London, on the false pretence that she had broken Covid restrictions.

“We believe that Sarah died because he was a police officer – she would never have got into a stranger’s car,” her family said in a statement last Thursday.

The Met apologised in March last year for not picking up on indecent exposure offences committed by Couzens before Everard’s murder. In the weeks before he killed her, Couzens had exposed himself twice at drive-through fast-food restaurants. He was not caught despite driving his own car and using his own credit card.

Angiolini’s report concluded that more women and girls could have been victims of the ex-officer, including “a child barely into her teens”.

“From my discussions with the National Police Chiefs’ Council and the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, I know there is an acceptance that mistakes have been made, and a strong commitment among police leaders to change, prioritise standards and improve women’s safety. But this report and the anniversary of Sarah’s death serve as a reminder that there have been far too many tragedies and that we have so much more to do,” said Patel.

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