Sat, October 23, 2021

international

Britain announces inquiry into systemic failures by police following Sarah Everard murder


LONDON - The British government on Tuesday announced an independent inquiry into "systemic failures" by police after a serving London Metropolitan Police officer used his official documents to "arrest" a young woman before raping and murdering her.

Last week, Wayne Couzens, 48, was sentenced to life in prison without parole in the killing of Sarah Everard, a 33-year-old marketing executive. Couzens used his police-issued handcuffs to restrain Everard and falsely arrest her on the pretext that she had violated pandemic restrictions.

The case shocked Britain and has deeply dented public confidence in police.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said at the annual Conservative Party conference Tuesday that "recent tragic events" had exposed "unimaginable failures in policing."

"It is abhorrent that a serving police officer was able to abuse his position of power, authority and trust to commit such a horrific crime," she said. "The public have a right to know what systematic failures enabled his continued employment as a police officer."

The Home Office said the inquiry will first examine Couzens's behavior in the lead-up to the murder and then address police issues such as vetting procedures and workplace conduct.

The inquiry is nonstatutory, meaning it lacks the legal authority to compel witnesses, but the government said it could be upgraded into a statutory one.

Questions have been raised about whether police missed warning signs about Couzens. He has been linked to a WhatsApp group with five police officers that allegedly shared misogynistic and racist material. He was also connected to incidents of alleged indecent exposure, including one in Kent in 2015 and another at a London McDonald's three days before Everard's abduction.

Couzens joined the Metropolitan Police in 2018 and worked as a parliamentary and diplomatic protection officer, serving in Parliament and the U.S. Embassy. The Met acknowledged that mistakes may have been made in his vetting but said he would have been hired regardless after detectives who investigated the 2015 incident decided against further action.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the BBC on Tuesday that the public outrage over Everard's murder was a symptom of a "wider frustration that people feel."

When asked about calls for misogyny to be deemed a hate crime, Johnson said it would be better to enforce existing laws.

Prosecutions and convictions of rape in Britain are at record lows.

Published : October 06, 2021

By : The Washington Post