An independent inquiry will look into the “systematic failures” by police following the murder of Sarah Everard by a serving officer, the home secretary has announced.
Priti Patel said the incident had “exposed unimaginable failings” in policing and added that an inquiry will “ensure something like this can never happen again”.
What will the inquiry look into?
The first part of will examine Wayne Couzens’ previous behaviour and will establish a definitive account of his conduct leading up to his conviction, as well as any opportunities missed by the Metropolitan Police, the Home Office said.
The second part will look at any specific issues raised by the first part of the inquiry, which could include wider issues across policing.
Ms Patel has asked the independent police inspectorate to report back to her on vetting procedures by the end of this year.
“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,” the home secretary told the Conservatives Party conference in Manchester,
“The public have a right to know what systematic failures enabled his continued employment as a police officer.
“We need answers as to why this was allowed to happen.”
Ms Patel said she would refuse to say the name of Sarah’s killer, but called him a “monster”.
“Women and girls have said enough’s enough,” she said.
She added she would “toughen” sentences for the most serious offenders.
Wayne Couzens was given a whole life jail sentence for the abduction, rape, and murder of 33-year-old Sarah.
Responding to the announcement, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said he and Ms Patel agreed that “the gravity of the situation required no less than a proper inquiry”.
“This inquiry must leave no stone unturned to ensure that the failures that led to a serving police officer killing Sarah Everard can never happen again – and while I know the vast majority of officers are decent and dedicated public servants, the inquiry must also address reports of widespread cultural issues,” the mayor said in a statement.
“All police officers must adhere to the highest possible standards, we must stamp out misogyny, sexism, racism and homophobia, root out those who abuse their trusted position as officers, and ensure that tackling violence against women and girls is treated with the highest priority.
Important that it looks more widely at handling of allegations of violence against women and girls by police officers and staff. Real concerns that these are not dealt with properly – vital that they are in order to ensure women’s safety and rebuild trust.
— Yvette Cooper (@YvetteCooperMP) October 5, 2021
“There is no time to waste. So while this inquiry moves ahead, I’ll continue to hold the Met to account so that we start to see the changes we need right now – both to rebuild trust in the police and to make our country safer for women and girls.”
Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said: “Labour has been calling for a full independent inquiry for days, yet the prime minister refused to support one – now the home secretary has half-heartedly announced one, but not put it on a robust, statutory footing to ensure there are no barriers in the way to getting answers.
“Labour will study the details of what is proposed very carefully. But taking action on the issue of violence against women and girls cannot be delayed for months or even years pending the outcome of the inquiry.”
Labour MP and chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee Yvette Cooper said the announcement was “very welcome”.
Ms Patel also said she plans to increase the maximum penalties for disrupting a motorway following the actions of Insulate Britain protesters – who she referred to as “eco-warriors”.
“It is because of our commitment to putting the needs of the hard-working, often silent, majority first that I will not tolerate so called eco-warriors trampling over our way of life and draining police resources,” the home secretary told the conference hall.
“Their actions over recent weeks have amounted to some of the most self-defeating ‘environmental’ protests this country has ever seen. Freedom to protest is a fundamental right our party will forever fight to uphold. But it must be within the law.”
Moving on to the issue of people smuggling, the home secretary said the government is “going after” the criminals involved.
“France is a safe country, one not riven by war or conflict. There is no reason why any asylum seeker should come to the United Kingdom directly from France,” Ms Patel told the conference audience.
“I make no apology for securing our borders and exploring all possible options to save lives by ending these horrific journeys.”
On immigration, the home secretary told the conference audience that there are “long-standing problems” despite the system now being under British control.
What is happening in the Channel with small boats seeking to reach the UK is “unsafe, unfair and unacceptable”, she added.
Ms Patel said new sea tactics are being used to “turn back the boats”, among other measures to respond to the issue, before adding: “I will never flinch from taking the difficult decisions needed to keep our country safe and secure.”
The home secretary wrapped up her speech by telling delegates she will “never flinch from taking the difficult decisions needed to keep our country safe and secure”.