Murder of Sarah Everard demands 'root and branch' reform of Metropolitan police, says campaigner as Wayne Couzens gets full-life sentence

A ‘root and branch’ reform of Britain’s biggest police force is needed to prevent another murder like that of Durham University graduate Sarah Everard, a leading North East women’s rights campaigner has said.

Thursday, 30th September 2021, 1:42 pm
Updated Thursday, 30th September 2021, 2:25 pm

Former Wearside Women in Need boss Clare Phillipson was speaking as 48-year-old Wayne Couzens begins a full-life sentence for the abduction, rape and murder of the 33-year-old marketing executive.

Couzens, a firearms officer who had clocked off from a 12-hour shift at the American embassy that morning, strangled Sarah with his police belt after kidnapping her under the guise of a fake arrest for breaking lockdown rules.

The Old Bailey had heard how Couzens used his Metropolitan Police-issue warrant card and handcuffs to snatch Ms Everard as she walked home from a friend’s house in Clapham, south London, on the evening of March 3.

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Sarah Everard

Sentencing him today, Lord Justice Fulford said the seriousness of the case was so ‘exceptionally high’ that it warranted a whole life order. The ruling means Couzens will die in jail.

Speaking shortly after Couzens’ sentence was confirmed, Clare Phillipson said the only way to honour Sarah’s memory was to ensure such an horrific crime could not happen again: “Everybody is horrified, everybody is traumatised but I do’t think there can really be any tribute to Sarah and recognition of the horrors she has experienced and the lifelong suffering her family is going to be subjected to unless we respect her memory by changing things to make it much harder for anything like this ever to happen again,” she said.

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Wayne Couzens

Sarah’s death raised a number of issues: “There is the use of his position as a police officer and the use of lockdown laws to detain and murder a young woman but there is also the question of what can we learn from the individual actions of a psychopath and what can we do to look at systems that enabled him,” said Ms Phillipson.

"Why was he allowed to be on active duty when there were concerns about criminal sexual behaviour and he was telling his own unit he had mental health issues?

“Clearly the Met needs to carry out a root and branch review of their procedures, especially given he had access to guns. We need to look at lockdown laws and how women are ever going to be able to trust the police again – I know a lot of women are saying ‘If I get stopped by a single officer, I am not co-operating’. There is a big issue of trust there.

“But I don’t think the Met, which has a history of structural problems, is like our local police force.”

Clare Phillipson

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Kim McGuinness, said the case raised profound questions for police forces nationwide: “Sarah was a daughter, a sister, a friend and Sarah was killed in the most horrific circumstances, the worst kind of male violence,” she said.

“Society is consistently failing women and girls. This case shows how horrendous the consequences can be and I am just so sorry Sarah and her family have paid the price of these failings.

“The impact statement from Sarah’s mother is one of the most heart-breaking and powerful things I have ever read. No mother should have to experience the loss, suffering and anguish conveyed in her words.

“It is beyond troubling to think his role as a Metropolitan police officer enabled him to commit these grotesque and I understand how concerning this is to women everywhere. His actions are the ultimate insult to the police officers who serve to protect people who I know are sickened to the core by his evil actions. Whilst he terrifyingly used his profession to lure Sarah, it was his misogyny that made him a killer.

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Kim McGuinness

“The real worry is that there were warning signs though. He slipped through the net. How did this happen?

"There is no doubt there are some very serious questions that need to be answered. No punishment will bring Sarah back, but a whole life sentence is appropriate and I hope it brings some comfort to the family.

"We can only hope this is the beginning of real change to protect and make women’s and girls’ lives safer.”

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