Tory conference: Priti Patel announces inquiry into Wayne Couzens case

Sienna Rodgers

Priti Patel has used her speech at Conservative Party conference to announce that there will be an inquiry into the “systematic failures” that led to Wayne Couzens murdering Sarah Everard while serving as a police officer.

“Recent tragic events have exposed unimaginable failures in policing. It is abhorrent that a serving policer was able to abuse his position of power, authority and trust to commit such a horrific crime,” the Home Secretary said.

“The public have a right to know what systematic failures led to his continued employment as a police officer. We need answers as to why this was allowed to happen.

“I can confirm today there will be an inquiry, to give the independent oversight needed, to ensure something like this can never happen again.”

Nick Thomas-Symonds, Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, responded by saying: “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.

“Today, the government should be getting on with implementing all the recommendations of the damning report from the Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services. Yet ministers still continue to dither.

“When parliament next sits, the Home Secretary must bring forward legislation that should toughen laws on street harassment, increase sentences for rape and stalking, fast-track rape and serious sexual violence cases through the courts, and enshrine the rights of victims in a Victims’ Law.”

Labour mayor of London Sadiq Khan has released a statement confirming that he has been in “detailed discussions” with the Home Secretary, and they agreed on the need for “no less than a proper inquiry”.

The statement reads: “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.” Khan said it must address “reports of widespread cultural issues”.

The Home Office has said the inquiry will be in two parts, the first looking at Couzens’ behaviour and an account of what he did in the lead-up to his conviction, and the second addressing issues in the police, such as vetting processes.

The Metropolitan Police has confirmed that Couzens passed police vetting processes when he joined, but that a review found a record of an allegation of indecent exposure from 2015 may not have been found during the checks.

However, according to the Met, the vetting decision on Couzens would not have changed even if the 2015 allegation – investigated at the time by Kent Police, which took no further action – had been discovered.

It was reported by The Times on Friday that Couzens exchanged misogynistic and racist material with five serving police officers – including three from the Metropolitan Police – who are now under criminal investigation.

Couzens was a serving officer when he used his police warrant card to arrest Sarah Everard in south London while off-duty. He kidnapped, raped and murdered her, and was sentenced to a whole-life prison term last week.

While Harriet Harman among other backbench Labour MPs has called for the resignation of Met commissioner Cressida Dick, Boris Johnson, Keir Starmer and Sadiq Khan have all supported her continuing to serve in the role.

Dick announced a Metropolitan Police review on Monday. She said: “My job now is to lead the Met through a difficult time and rebuild that public trust, which I am doing through bringing in an independent person to review our standards and culture.”

The commissioner added: “Our leadership, our processes, our systems, our people, our training, everything will be looked at. This will be a fully transparent report, it will respond to me, but will, of course, make recommendations for changes, I’m sure, and those will be public.”

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