Wayne Couzens’ abuse of police power in tragic Sarah Everard murder case has fundamentally undermined women's trust in police

Wayne Couzens, 48, was today handed a whole life order for the killing of Sarah Everard – but his sentencing can’t undo the damage done to women’s trust in the police.

Thursday, 30th September 2021, 5:24 pm
Updated Thursday, 30th September 2021, 5:35 pm

Sentencing him at the Old Bailey, Lord Justice Fulford described the circumstances of the murder as ‘grotesque’.

The court heard how Couzens used his Metropolitan Police-issue warrant card and handcuffs to snatch the 33-year-old marketing executive as she walked home from a friend’s house in Clapham, south London, on the evening of March 3, 2021.

While it’s significant that Couzens has been committed to spend life behind bars, that doesn’t turn back the clock for Sarah’s family.

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A sign at a vigil for Sarah Everard reads 'It could have been any of us'. Photo by: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images.

Nor does it do anything to reassure women that men in positions of power – like Couzens was the night that he kidnapped, raped and murdered Sarah – won’t be able to abuse that power to commit unspeakable crimes.

We will no doubt be subject to a tide of police statements saying ‘more needs to be done’ to reduce violence against women over the next few days.

I am sure many of these statements will come from a place of sincerity and genuine horror at Couzens’ crimes.

But what women really need from those in positions of power right now is action: we need a more thorough police recruitment processes that prevents men like Couzens from ever ending up in a position of authority, we need police officers trained to handle victims with care and sensitivity, and we need more education in schools about violence against women.

Statements will be made over the next few days after Wayne Couzens was today handed a whole life order for the killing of Sarah Everard, but we need action, not just words. Photo by: Ming Yeung/Getty Images.

We also need people to stop telling us how to protect ourselves when out and about late at night – because the tragic case of Sarah Everard shows that even those who are meant to protect women can hurt us, highlighting the futility of women trying to cover their own backs.

The things that are going to make a long-lasting difference to women’s safety – in terms of reducing the number of crimes committed and also improving conviction rates – need to come from the top down.

It shouldn’t take a University of Sheffield student to start a petition calling for better lighting in parks for Sheffield City Council to take action – these are already issues that those in charge of our city should be thinking about.

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