UK

Sarah Everard ‘failed’ by those who should have kept her safe – Home Secretary

James Cleverly called her murder by Met Police officer Wayne Couzens an ‘act of pure evil’ that ‘shocked the nation to its core’.

Sarah Everard was murdered in March 2021
Wayne Couzens court case Sarah Everard was murdered in March 2021 (Family Handout/PA)

The Home Secretary has said that Sarah Everard was “failed in more ways than one” by the people who were meant to keep her safe, as he joined an outpouring of reaction to the Angiolini Inquiry.

James Cleverly called her murder by Met Police officer Wayne Couzens an “act of pure evil” that “shocked the nation to its core”.

Mr Cleverly was among several high-profile politicians and bodies who reacted to the findings of the inquiry on Thursday.

Publishing her findings on Thursday, inquiry chairwoman Lady Elish Angiolini warned without a radical overhaul of policing practices and culture, there is “nothing to stop another Couzens operating in plain sight”.

The Home Secretary said Couzens’ crimes were not a reflection on the majority of dedicated police officers
MPs security budget The Home Secretary said Couzens’ crimes were not a reflection on the majority of dedicated police officers (James Manning/PA)

The Home Secretary said Couzens’ crimes were not a reflection on the majority of dedicated police officers.

“But Sarah was failed in more ways than one by the people who were meant to keep her safe, and it laid bare wider issues in policing and society that need to be urgently fixed,” he said.

He said that “huge strides” had been made in the “root-and-stem clean-up” of the police in the three years since her murder.

“But we will continue to do everything in our power to protect women and girls,” he said.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan also vowed to ensure “lessons are learned” from the Angiolini Inquiry.

Mr Khan, who is also the equivalent of the police and crime commissioner for the capital, said in a statement: “The report by Dame Elish Angiolini shines a light on systematic failings in police investigations, vetting and the handling of misconduct allegations. We all need to closely examine and consider all the findings of the inquiry.

“I’m determined to ensure lessons are learned and acted upon quickly by the police as part of a process of major reform – not just in London, but across the country – to raise standards, strengthen vetting and, above all else, prevent anything like this from ever happening again.”

Met Police officer Wayne Couzens murdered marketing executive Sarah Everard in March 2021
Angiolini Inquiry Met Police officer Wayne Couzens murdered marketing executive Sarah Everard in March 2021 (Metropolitan Police/PA)

He added that police regulations must be “strengthened” to make it harder for those who have faced serious allegations about their behaviour to join any police force.

Responding to the Angiolini report, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley said it was an “urgent call to action”.

“There is nothing we can say to the family of Sarah Everard and all those who loved her that will convey how very sorry we are” he said.

“Wayne Couzens’ crimes were horrific. The fact that he abused his position as a Metropolitan Police officer to carry them out represents the most appalling betrayal of trust.

“It damages the relationship between the public and the police and exposes long-standing fundamental flaws in the way we decide who is fit to be a police officer and the way we pursue those who corrupt our integrity once they get in.

“The report published today is an urgent call to action for all of us in policing.”

Responding to the Angiolini report, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley said it was an ‘urgent call to action’
Sir Mark Rowley in conversation with Sir Trevor Phillips Responding to the Angiolini report, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley said it was an ‘urgent call to action’ (James Manning/PA)

Kent Police also apologised for failing to properly investigate when Wayne Couzens was reported for indecent exposure in 2015.

In a statement, the force said: “Everyone at Kent Police is shocked, appalled and disgusted by the crimes Wayne Couzens committed against Sarah Everard and we share in the collective grief for her loss.

“Part I of the Angiolini Inquiry report has been made available to us today, and whilst we continue to carefully consider its contents we fully accept the recommendations made of Kent Police.

“We also accept our investigation into a 2015 incident of indecent exposure was flawed due to it being allocated to an officer who was not a trained investigator, and apologise for this failing.”

National Police Chiefs’ Council chairman Gavin Stephens said hearing the inquiry’s findings left him “aghast”.

“Listening this morning to Lady Elish Angiolini’s clear findings of a catalogue of missed opportunities and red flags left me aghast. Police leaders across the United Kingdom will feel the same and take this as an urgent call for action, and reminder of how far we still have to go.

“We are reviewing the recommendations in detail and I do not underestimate just how important this is for all of society.”

Meanwhile, the Information Commissioner said there was a need for “greater transparency” in how information on “disciplinary concerns” about police officers and recruits is shared.

John Edwards, who contributed to the Angiolini Inquiry, said: “This inquiry paints a concerning picture of how disciplinary concerns about police officers and recruits are shared.

“There is no room to hide behind misconceptions of the law on such an important matter: data protection law does not stand in the way of police sharing information about a potential recruit’s previous disciplinary action or warnings, nor does it act as a shield against investigations into police officers.”