Priti Patel responds to the conviction of Wayne Couzens
And the Home Secretary said the tragedy had left her “sickened to her stomach” as she condemned the “disturbing abuse of power and trust” which led to the 33-year-old’s death. Couzens, 48, was today sentenced to a whole-life term – meaning he will die in prison – at the Old Bailey, with Lord Justice Fulford saying the maximum term was warranted by the “exceptionally high” serious of the case.
After the sentence was handed down, Ms Patel, the Tory MP for Witham, tweeted: “What happened to Sarah sickens me to my stomach.
“She is in my thoughts every single day and I have seen first-hand the bravery, courage and resolve of Sarah’s loving family.”
Ms Patel added: “The police officer who killed her is a monster. I welcome the fact he has faced the full force of the law and he will never be free to walk our country’s streets again.
Priti Patel said Wayne Couzens was a “monster”
Cressida Dick speaking today
“Every police officer I have spoken to is disgusted and sickened by the crimes committed by a serving police officer. The vast majority of police officers serve with the highest integrity.
“But we cannot ignore this disturbing abuse of power and trust.”
She said: “Whilst we pay our respects to Sarah and her family, as Home Secretary, but also as a woman, I take nothing more seriously than my duty to keep the people of this country safe.
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Sarah Everard, 33, was murdered by Couzens in March
“Let me assure women and girls everywhere that I will do everything in my power to protect them from violence and harassment.”
The court was told how firearms officer Couzens used his Metropolitan Police-issue warrant card and handcuffs to illegally arrest Ms Everard as she returned from a friend’s house in Clapham in south London, on March 3.
He then took her to an isolated area of land near Dover in Kent, where he parked up and raped Ms Everard.
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Priti Patel speaking today after the sentencing
Priti Patel’s tweet
By 2.30pm the following day, she was dead, strangled by Couzens’ belt. He then burnt her body in a refrigerator in an area of woodland he owned near Ashford, before dumping the remains in a pond.
Speaking at the Home Office, Ms Patel added: “There are questions, serious questions that need to be answered by the Metropolitan Police.
“From the very day that Sarah went missing, I have been, clearly, in contact with the Metropolitan Police and putting forward some questions around the conduct of the potential suspect at the time and all the requirements and checks that should have been put in place.”
Sarah Everard’s last movements
The Met commissioner Dame Cressida Dick has faced calls to step down amid demands for urgent action to restore the confidence of women in the police after Couzens was handed a whole life sentence for the killing.
Earlier this month her contract was extended by two years, which means she will continue to lead the Met until 2024.
Asked whether Dame Cressida should resign, Ms Patel said: “I will continue to work with the Metropolitan Police and the commissioner to hold them to account as everybody would expect me to do, and I will continue to do that.”
The Chief Inspector of Constabulary Sir Tom Winsor told BBC Radio 4’s The World At One: “Cressida Dick is not responsible for the individual acts of every police officer, including a police officer of the appalling criminal intent of Wayne Couzens.
A court artist’s sketch of Wayne Couzens
“Cressida Dick has a great deal of support from her officers and has led the force with distinction.”
Met Deputy Commissioner Sir Stephen House told the London Assembly’s police and crime committee that the actions of Couzens “constitute a gross betrayal of everything in policing that we believe in, everything that the Met stands for”.
He added: “He was one of us and we need to look at ourselves very, very carefully to understand how was he allowed to be one of us, and what does it say about us as an organisation that he was.”
Sir Stephen said the case has raised questions on recruitment and vetting, adding: “We know we have to work to rebuild trust and confidence, and we will do all we can to achieve that.”