MPs and activists have warned “the rot goes much deeper” and there are “systematic failures” in protecting women from male violence
Campaigners have reacted with anger after a Tory minister said the Met Police officer who raped and murdered Sarah Everard “should not tarnish” the force.
Speaking on BBC One’s Question Time, Environment Secretary George Eustice described killer Wayne Couzens as “one bad apple” and called the “shocking and incredibly distressing case” an isolated incident.
But MPs and activists have warned “the rot goes much deeper” and that there are “systematic failures” in protecting women from male violence.
Couzens raped and murdered Sarah Everard while working for the Met, after kidnapping her in a fake arrest. He was sentenced to a whole life prison term at the Old Bailey on Thursday.
It has emerged five serving officers and one former officer are under investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) for sharing misogynistic, racist and homophobic messages in a WhatsApp group with Couzens.
Met Police Commissioner Cressida Dick is also under pressure to resign amid claims the force missed opportunities to stop Couzens, who was referred to by colleagues in the force as ‘the rapist’.
But reacting to the outcry, Mr Eustice said: “I think we always have to bear in mind that there are police officers up and down the country who feel exactly the same and will be absolutely, utterly ashamed of what one of their fellow officers did, and it’s really important, I think, that we challenge ourselves not to allow the actions of one bad apple, one individual, to tarnish our police force which, by and large, has very high standards.”
Shadow domestic violence minister Jess Phillips told the Mirror: “The inspectorate of police has said that there is systematic failures in how police forces are managing cases of violence against women and girls.
“This is not a one bad apple situation and we will not help to support the brilliant police officers in our country who are rightly horrified if we pretend there isn’t a problem. Government ministers should know better and do better to support our police to tackle this serious problem.”
Streatham MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy, who was MP for 33-year-old marketing executive Miss Everard, also raised case of environmental activist Kate Wilson, who was deceived into a nearly two-year relationship with an undercover Met Police officer.
She won a landmark tribunal case against the force this week for breaches of her human rights.
Ms Rebeiro-Addy said: “On the same day that a police officer was sentenced for the murder of Sarah Everard, a court found widespread evidence of human rights abuses and misogyny in undercover policing #spycops
“The rot goes much deeper than one bad apple.”
Former Met Police Commissioner Lord Stevens told LBC that the force’s vetting system failed and that someone should have blown the whistle.
Couzens was linked to two alleged flashing incidents before he targeted Miss Everard.
AFP via Getty Images)
Lord Stevens said: “The fact that this individual in 2015 was seen to be driving around without any clothes on from his waist downwards, the fact he was called a rapist, the fact that he was a really strange individual… there is no way that that man should have been given a gun. The vetting process is obviously not fit for the purpose. And this needs all to be changed.
“It’s an extraordinary story of blunders and of that there’s no doubt.”
The Met Police also faces fresh questions after it issued new advice telling women they should run away and call 999 if they feel in danger when stopped by a lone person claiming to be an officer.
It prompted fury, with Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner tweeting: “What is going on at the top of the Metropolitan Police? Give me strength.”
Tory MP Caroline Nokes, meanwhile, told Sky News Dame Cressida “had six months since Sarah Everard’s murder to come out with a plan to help restore trust in the Service she leads”. She added: “Telling women to run if someone purporting to be a Police Officer tries to arrest them is not a solution”.
Jamie Klingler, who co-founded Reclaim These Streets, has called for Dame Cressida to resign, as has long-serving Labour MP Harriet Harman.
Speaking outside the Old Bailey as Wayne Couzens was handed a whole life sentence on Thursday, Ms Klingler said: “It’s not a bad apple.
“This man did this and he was one of yours and now they are trying to spin and say he was a former police officer, he was a serving police officer who used a warrant card to arrest her.
“I think Cressida Dick needs to resign.”
Policing Minister Kit Malthouse admitted confidence in forces had been hit by a “devastating blow”.
He told Sky News on Friday: “They recognise that this has struck a devastating blow to the confidence that people have in police officers but also in the Met Police in particular. For those thousands and thousands of police officers out there who will have to work harder – much harder – to win public trust it is a very, very difficult time.”
Mr Malthouse said there would be important lessons to learn from what happened.
“My job is effectively to help the Home Secretary hold the police to account about what went wrong, how this monster slipped through the net to become a police officer, how we can make sure it doesn’t happen again,” he said.
He rejected calls for Met Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick to resign, adding: “She is a dedicated and talented and committed police officer who is driving the Metropolitan Police to ever greater standards of care and improvement and fighting crime.”
Ms Phillips said trust in police was “not going to be built back overnight”.
“It is going to be built up if we see the Government and police forces starting to actually take violence against women and girls, and the complaints that women make day in, day out, seriously,” she told the BBC.
“This is a conversation where women have been saying for some time, even before the death of Sarah Everard, that they don’t feel that they are trusted by the police when they speak up or that violence and crime against them is prioritised.”