The UK government will launch an independent inquiry into “systematic failures” in policing, interior minister Priti Patel said Tuesday, after an officer serving in London kidnapped, raped and murdered a woman.
The death of Sarah Everard at the hands of a police officer rocked the country and led to an outcry about the levels of violence against women and girls in Britain.
It has also raised questions about police vetting, how forces handle complaints from victims, as well as wider calls to address sexism and misogyny 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,” Patel said at the ruling Conservative party’s annual conference.
“I can confirm today there will be an inquiry to give the independent oversight needed, to ensure something like this can never happen again.”
Wayne Couzens, 48, who served in London’s Metropolitan police force, was jailed for life last week after admitting the kidnap, rape and murder of Everard.
He had falsely arrested the 33-year-old marketing executive as she walked home from a friend’s, on the pretence that she had broken coronavirus restrictions in place at the time.
In a separate case, another London police officer from the same diplomatic protection unit in which Couzens served was this week charged with rape and remanded in custody.
Met Commissioner Cressida Dick said on Sunday she would announce “a high-profile figure” to lead a separate internal review of the Met.
“They will look at our training, leadership, processes, systems and standards of behaviour, and examine cases where officers have let the public down,” Dick said.
Britain’s low level of convictions for rape, which have fallen dramatically over the last decade, have also been thrown into the spotlight by recent events.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson conceded Tuesday that people may have lost faith in policing nationwide because of Couzens’ conviction and other cases of alleged or confirmed misconduct by officers, as well as criminal justice service delays and failures.
“I want everybody to have that confidence and at the moment I have got to tell you that the answer to that is ‘no’, I don’t think people do have enough confidence in the criminal justice system,” he told Sky News.
“And I don’t think people have a feeling that the police are handling these issues fast enough either.
“And that has, certainly, led to this feeling of fury, frustration, betrayal on the part of millions of people — most of them women — about what is happening.”