Sarah Everard: UK inquiry launched into 'unimaginable failures' around policeman's murder of ...
Independent

It has been a year since marketing executive Sarah Everard was kidnapped, raped and murdered by police officer Wayne Couzens.

It's become a refrain but it is true - she was just walking home.

Her death winded the nation and galvanized action. And after Couzens was handed a whole life sentence, institutions including police forces and the government rushed to understand the circumstances that facilitate male violence and stamp them out.

We've taken a look at what has happened since her death, and whether there has been a substantial change for women.

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Women continue to die at the hands of male violence

While we might have hoped Everard would be the last victim to die at the hands of men but at least 125 women and girls have been killed by male perpetrators,the Independentexclusively reports.

These include 53-year-old Kent PCSO Julia James who was murdered when out walking her dog last April, and Sabina Nesa, a 28-year-old teacher who was walking through a park to meet a friend in Kidbrooke, south London. Koci Selamaj, a garage worker from Eastbourne, a seaside town in East Sussex, pleaded guilty to her murder at the end of last month.

Responding to the figures, Jess Phillips, the shadow minister for domestic violence and safeguarding, said: “In the year since Sarah Everard was killed, more women have been killed at the hands of men than in the year before. We should know all of their names. A year on since the public demanded better, we have seen more women killed, rape charging falling, women making it clear that they do not feel safe.

“Too little progress has been made, and still there are no answers from the government about how they will manage, monitor and prevent the most violent repeat offenders. It is not good enough.”

Met shortcomings exposed

Cressida Dick leaves the role after 5 years AFP via Getty Images

A number of issues in the Metropolitan Police were brought to light following Everard's tragic death, not least how Wayne Couzens, a serving police with a history of concerning behaviour including being nicknamed "the rapist" by colleagues, had slipped through the cracks in the system enabling to commit these heinous crimes.

A non-statutory inquiry led by Dame Elish Angiolini is looking at just that, and there are plans for a second part looking at wider issues in policing.

The Met has also commissioned its own review of the culture and standards at the force, including Couzens’ former unit – the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command.

The controversy didn't stop with one malignant character, though, and the police force was also widely criticised for their handling of a vigil for Everard which took place in Clapham Common. It was seen as heavy-handed by witnesses and led to Priti Patel commissioning a report into what happened.

Elsewhere, two Met police constables were jailed after taking and sharing photos of murdered sisters Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman, and a number of Met campaigns to promote safety for women, like calling on them to "run" or "hail a bus", and offering advice for how to verify the identity of police officers were criticised for putting the onus on women to avoid criminality.

Reading all this, it will surprise no one that confidence in the police dropped substantially; according to a YouGov survey released in October 2021, nearly half of Brits (48 per cent) were not confident in the police dealing with crime in their local area.

But the controversies continued as the year went on, and last month the results of an inquiry that had been launched in 2018 came out, finding that officers based at Charing Cross police station had joked about rape and exchanged offensive social media messages. The Met said it was "deeply sorry".

This and other controversies including Partygate were enough for police commissioner Cressida Dick to resign, with the London mayor Sadiq Khan saying he was "not satisfied" with her response to the scale of change required to "root out" racism, sexism, homophobia, bullying and misogyny in the Met.

In a statement, she said:

"It is with huge sadness that following contact with the mayor of London today, it is clear that the mayor no longer has sufficient confidence in my leadership to continue.

"He has left me no choice but to step aside as commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service."

"The murder of Sarah Everard and many other awful cases recently have, I know, damaged confidence in this fantastic police service," she added.

"There is much to do - and I know that the Met has turned its full attention to rebuilding public trust and confidence. For that reason I am very optimistic about the future for the Met and for London."

Government response

PA

In the immediate aftermath of Everard’s death, the government promised to more than double the size of the safer streets fund, which gives local authorities money to make public spaces safer for women and girls, to £45million.

A violence against women and girls strategy was also published by the Home Office last summer, with the government pledging several key actions. These include investing £300 million to support victims, putting £3 million towards grasping a better understanding of what works to prevent violence against women and girls, launching a £5 million “Safety of Women at Night” fund to top up the Safe Streets fund - and the appointment of a new police chief to spearhead the fight against violence towards women and girls.

A pilot of a new online tool, StreetSafe, was also launched by the Home Office in September. The portal encourages the public to anonymously report areas where they feel unsafe.

The government also launched its Enough campaign this Tuesday with a 60-second television advert showing examples of street harassment, coercive control, unwanted touching, workplace harassment, revenge porn and cyber-flashing women are subjected to.

It is also implementing putting violence against women and girls on the same police strategic footing as terrorism, serious organised crime and child sexual abuse.

However, it is stopping short at making misogyny a hate crime, as was proposed by the house of Lords.

Do women feel safe?

If Everard's death awoke people to the reality of violence against women, that awareness hasn't appeared to change women's perceptions of their threat levels and Sky News has interviewed a number of people who say they still don't feel safe.

Encouragingly, a survey commissioned by Good Morning Britain has found that three-quarters of men in the UK recognise that they should actively change their behaviour to make women feel safe when they are on their own.

Renewed tributes pour in

Everard's family released a statement marking the anniversary of her death.

“It is a year since Sarah died and we remember her today, as every day, with all our love. Our lives have changed forever and we live with the sadness of our loss. Sarah was wonderful and we miss her all the time.

"Over the past year we have been overwhelmed with the kindness shown to us, not just by family and friends, but by the wider public. We are immensely grateful to everyone for their support, it has meant such a lot to us and has comforted us through this terrible time.

“Sadly, Sarah is not the only woman to have lost her life recently in violent circumstances and we would like to extend our deepest sympathy to other families who are also grieving.”

A statement from the Met released on the anniversary said: “Our thoughts are with Sarah Everard’s family and loved ones. One year on we remain deeply disgusted and shamed that a Met police officer was responsible for Sarah’s appalling murder.”

Sadiq Khan said: “My thoughts today are with Sarah Everard’s family, friends and all those who knew her.

“Today we remember the young woman that Sarah was and the life that she lived. She was a vibrant, talented, intelligent young woman, who was loved deeply by her family and friends.

Here are a selection of other tributes:

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