This casts a huge shadow over the UK’s police services – not only because of the crimes admitted by PC Wayne Couzens but because of the way police across the country tried to suppress public protest.
Couzens, of Deal, has admitted kidnapping and raping Sarah Everard in a hearing at the Old Bailey (although he appeared by video link from Belmarsh Prison).
He also accepted responsibility for her death but did not enter a plea on the charge of murder.
Ms Everard, 33, went missing while walking home in Clapham, south London, on March 3. She was reported missing by her boyfriend on March 4 and her body was discovered hidden in an area of woodland near Ashford, Kent, on March 10.
pleaded guilty to kidnapping Ms Everard “unlawfully and by force or fraud” on 3 March.
He also pleaded guilty to a second charge of rape between 2 and 10 March.
So now we know that the man who murdered Ms Everard was indeed a police officer.
This fact raises serious questions about the trust we place in our police services – as does the way police across the UK handled the public reaction to this crime.
Remember the Clapham Common vigil that police officers deliberately escalated into a full-on confrontation? They kettled peaceful attendees – most, or all, of whom were women – provoked a violent confrontation and arrested them when they protested.
They were transmitting a very clear message to all of us:
Women in the United Kingdom should fear the police. Officers are able to kidnap, rape and murder them and when this causes protest, the protesters will be arrested.
That is what the police service now represents, and while the Conservative government may not be said to be directly responsible for the criminal behaviour of these uniformed thugs, it is certainly clear that the politicians in charge have done nothing to prevent it and everything to suppress protest against it.
A review of the incident by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) subsequently insulted all the women who took part in the vigil when it cleared the Metropolitan Police of any inappropriate behaviour.
It stated that the force “was justified in adopting the view that the risks of transmitting COVID-19 at the vigil were too great to ignore” and that it was therefore perfectly reasonable for burly uniformed policemen to inflict violence on defenceless women.
On March 14, a further public event – this time a protest demonstration against the policing of the Sarah Everard vigil – attracted a much more low-key police response but even then the officers attending could not hide their priorities.
They clustered around a statue of Winston Churchill that they had (allegedly) been told to protect “at any cost”:
Police have come back into the crowd to stand around the Winston Churchill statue. Heard from a legal observer that a commanding officer told his colleagues “protect Churchill at all costs”. Chants of “protect women not statues”. pic.twitter.com/WJlVr18sfK
— Sian (sh-arn) Bradley (@sianabradley) March 14, 2021
— Russ Jones (@RussInCheshire) March 14, 2021
On March 16 allegations emerged that a police officer guarding the scene where Sarah Everard’s body was found had shared an “inappropriate” message about her death with colleagues on WhatsApp.
We were told that it was believed the “inappropriate graphic” contained offensive comments about her death.
The family of Ms Everard were informed of the incident but we were not told whether they had received the grovelling apology that they deserved.
The incident also served as a reminder that only last year, two policemen caused a scandal when it was revealed that they had taken selfies of themselves with the bodies of two murdered women and shared them on WhatsApp.
While we were all told at the time that “lessons have been learned” it became crystal clear that this was not true and that all women could be sure of getting from the police was contempt.
Four days later – March 20 – a serving police officer who assaulted a woman while she was walking home late at night (a direct parallel with what happened to Sarah Everard) using police techniques walked free after magistrates let him off with a fine and a curfew. He was excused community service because his lawyer said it would be hard for him to work with criminals, even though he is now a criminal himself.
The first thing Warwickshire police had done on receiving the victim’s complaint was to ignore it.
The victim then had to undergo an uphill struggle to get that police service to take her seriously, and it is unlikely that she would have had any justice at all if she had not been able to find CCTV footage of the assault.
It showed that Oliver Banfield, 25, hurled a stream of misogynistic abuse at Emma Holmer, 11 years his senior, as he tried to employ techniques he learned from police training to drag her to the ground and put her in a headlock.
I stated at the time: “Apparently this has been described as an ‘unlawful arrest’. I’m sure you can think of a much better description for what is clearly a hate attack against a woman.
“And let’s remind ourselves that Sarah Everard was ‘just walking home’ (the words have been used as a slogan ever since the incident) when she was attacked” by another serving policeman.
I added: “Two incidents cannot suggest that such behaviour is epidemic in the UK’s police. But they are enough to instil fear in every woman who has to walk home in the dark because they know they cannot automatically rely on the police to keep them safe.
“When a trust is betrayed, it can be extremely difficult to win back. Sometimes it is impossible. It seems clear that the police – and the justice system – isn’t even bothering to try.”
It is clear that we can no longer trust the police to uphold the law and protect us against crime. That contract has been broken by the police themselves.
Today, the police are able to commit crimes against us with impunity, with protests silenced by heavy-handed colleagues and suppression by both individual police services and the government, and their actions whitewashed by so-called watchdogs.
This cannot be allowed to continue.
This corruption must be purged. But how can it be done when nobody who is in a position to do it can be trusted to?
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