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Sarah Everard Inquiry: a damning indictment of the Met

The Met needs a radical overhaul — or it should be disbanded. Credit: Getty

February 29, 2024 - 3:00pm

The job of the police is to catch criminals, not provide cover for sexual predators among their colleagues. So how did we get to a point where police forces are being urged to carry out an urgent review of indecent exposure charges against serving police officers? It’s one of the most jaw-dropping recommendations from the independent inquiry into the rape and murder of Sarah Everard in 2021.

Until recently, most of us would have assumed that a history of “flashing”, as it used to be known, would have been a bar to joining the police or remaining in the force. Yet the report, by Lady Angiolini, reveals that Ms Everard’s killer, PC Wayne Couzens, was reported eight times for exposing himself in the years before he targeted her. 

The fact that he was allowed to continue carrying a warrant card is only partly explained by the false assumption that indecent exposure is a minor offence. The idea that flashers are too timid to carry out physical attacks has been disproved many times, yet the report suggests that allegations against officers are still not being acted upon with the speed and vigour they require. 

But then we discovered last week, after a former PC in the Met was convicted of multiple counts of rape, that even a history of allegations of serious sexual assaults against a child had not prevented his recruitment. And while the Angiolini report ranks as one of the most damning indictments ever published in relation to a public institution, it doesn’t tell us much we didn’t already know about the horrendous state of policing in this country.

A couple of months ago, it was revealed that 1,151 police officers in England and Wales are under investigation for sexual or domestic abuse, including 657 of Couzens’s former Met colleagues. One in seven of the overall total has been allowed to continue working as usual while 428 have been placed on restricted duties. Only 378 have been suspended. Allegations against officers are so widespread that the Met Police Commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley, admitted last year that he couldn’t guarantee that a woman reporting a rape wouldn’t be interviewed by a predator. Is anyone surprised that so many rape investigations go nowhere? 

It has been clear for a long time that there are failures at every point in the system, from vetting of police recruits, training and supervision of officers, and investigation of complaints. Various initiatives have been announced in an attempt to regain public confidence, including Operation Onyx, which reinvestigates allegations against officers where lines of inquiry might have been missed.

But none of this is happening quickly enough for women who find themselves agonising over whether to report a rape. Couzens should never have been allowed to become a police officer, but how many more does that apply to? Scarcely a week goes by without another officer being charged with a whole series of serious sexual assaults, but it’s often taken years before they were exposed.

Senior officers need to enforce a regime where denigration of women and use of extreme pornography are disciplinary offences, and allegations of sexual or domestic violence lead to an immediate suspension. If they can’t or won’t don’t do that, we’re entitled to expect drastic measures — and that includes disbanding the Met.


Joan Smith is a novelist and columnist. She has been Chair of the Mayor of London’s Violence Against Women and Girls Board since 2013. Her book Homegrown: How Domestic Violence Turns Men Into Terrorists was published in 2019.

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Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
3 months ago

I really need to stop reading the news out of Britain, because I have a deeply-seated Anglophilia and everything I read these days makes Blighty out to be some horrifically corrupt Third-World hellhole. I’d prefer to remember it as it was in my childhood: a mildly corrupt Second-World hellhole.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
3 months ago

Maybe stop reading the conservative press – they are always whining.

R Wright
R Wright
3 months ago

The Guardian has done nothing but whine non stop for 15 years.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
3 months ago

The worst thing is the lack of manners, discipline and consideration for others that seems to have spread like wildfire, especially in the younger generations.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
3 months ago

Sounds like wokery to me. Instead of prosecuting presumably innocent bobbies and judging Victorian institutions against today’s moral standards what are they doing about the 0.01 annual instances of sexual violence in gender neutral bathrooms?

Stephen Walsh
Stephen Walsh
3 months ago

That Couzens was allowed to continue working as a police officer was a scandal. Nevertheless some context would be useful here. As at 31 March 2021, there were over 135,000 officers in the 43 territorial police forces in England and Wales. So 1,151 is less than 1% of the total, and they are unlikely to be all guilty. Police officers do deal with criminals, who may be highly motivated to make bogus claims against them. “Bad apples” like Lucy Letby are not typically cited to call into question the standards of other nurses and midwives. We should demand the highest standards from the Police. But if we make their lives impossible, as increasingly seems to be happening, then police forces will not attract people with better options.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
3 months ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

1,151 under investigation. Admittedly they’re unlikely to all be guilty. But it’s unlikely all who are guilty are under investigation.
I shall reserve this “bad apple” argument for the next Islamophobia thread.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
3 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

If that comparison could be done in any objective way it might be quite interesting.

How many U.K. Muslims joined Islamic state as a percentage of the population? I’d guess a much lower percentage than the 1151 is of the total police force.

On a newsworthy stories comparison it might be a different story. Ariane Grande, 7/7, Lee Rigby, grooming gangs, numerous honour killings, forced marriages, Batley teacher, David Amis, I’m sure there are many I’ve forgotten… vs Sarah Everard.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
3 months ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

I was hoping somebody would have the numbers to counteract the obvious hyperbole in this piece.

Disbanding the Met would seem an odd way to go about reducing crime, including rape.

Adrian Smith
Adrian Smith
3 months ago

Not excusing what happened with Sarah Everard – it is a disgrace, but if you look at how many police around the country who have been sacked for sharing racist whatsapp messages – ie not for racist abuse of an individual, just maybe the priorities are all wrong?
Just one example:
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-67650961

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
3 months ago
Reply to  Adrian Smith

So by not sacking racist cops… What?
Perhaps they could prioritize sacking the racists and the criminals? Just a thought.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
3 months ago

Scarcely a week goes by without another officer being charged with a whole series of serious sexual assaults, but it’s often taken years before they were exposed.

Sorry Joan, but i just wish you’d phrased that differently.

j watson
j watson
3 months ago

I know a few Met officers and they are all utterly horrified and distraught about Couzens, a good number of other instances where clear racism and misogyny evident and the general impression the c1000 cases create. Quietly they all recognise though they’ve come across a small number of this ilk who have been accepted and put in a position of significant power as a Police officer. In part they see this as a legacy of Male/Locker room type culture that cannot continue. Fortunately the more I’m exposed to our Young the more I sense things fundamentally different than during my younger adolescence and adulthood, despite the malign, pathetic influence of likes of Tate et al.
But we should also recognise what tremendous public service the overwhelming majority of Police officers give every day for us. Without them society would rapidly collapse.

Katalin Kish
Katalin Kish
3 months ago

Police officers have always been Australia’s most dangerous criminals:

1) They have no duty of care or accountability while having a monopoly on what is a crime.
2) They know how to avoid prosecution, how to game the system.

I had to succumb to this in Melbourne, in 2019, after more than a decade of cumulatively devastating crimes against me by a stalker ex-coworker, whom I never even dated. I have no criminal background, I never mixed with criminals.
In 2019 I saw uniformed police participating in the stalker’s crimes in broad daylight – while Victoria Police were forcing me to fight at court as an accused criminal in an admitted silencing attempt. Victoria Police tried to entrap me twice during their silencing attempt.
I won anyway. Prosecutors bluff.

PS:
The stalker’s crimes are ongoing, increased in range/spread/volume & technology intensity. Last incident minutes ago in my own home in the electorate of Clare O’Neil.
Clare O’Neil is Australia’s Minister for Cyber Security and Home Affairs (no less). She has been the MP for my electorate since 2013. She ignored my pleas for help in 2015.
I had to give up trying to earn a salary in 2017 because of the severity of crimes I am forced to live with.
I stopped trying to report any crime to any police in 2018.
The stalker added me to his already extensive list of concurrent targets in 2009, when I became an e-commerce world-champion in my postgrad studies while working as a Business Analyst at the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC). The stalker was (is?) a highschool-dropout IT Helpdesk Assistant at the VEC. The stalker had (still has?) unrestricted access to info e.g. where to find people in witness protection. Guess who would value the up-to-date whereabouts of people in witness protection? How about criminal police officers?
I have owned my home since 2001.

Katalin Kish
Katalin Kish
3 months ago
Reply to  Katalin Kish

PPS: there is no point in trying to move anywhere in Australia, unless I became a homeless fugitive always on the run, always looking over my shoulder. In Australia government insiders like IT Helpdesk Assistants will always be able to get the whereabouts of people like me, before any of my loved ones would.
Government insiders’ access not just to information but technology far beyond what civilian experts know about is flaunted to this day. My last experience showing Geneva Convention violations evidently without any risk of prosecution in my own home less than 75 hours ago (writing this at 9:15am on 5 March 2024) in an expensive Melbourne suburb.
Trying to report a war crime committed via the power over Internet protocol would risk being locked up as insane.  
I had a taste of this in 2016, this is why I stopped trying to report cyber-crimes in 2016.
I experienced a Faraday Cage breach in 2022 as an example of what tech Australia’s organised crime participants have on-demand access to. Civilians like Sarah Everard and I have no hope of evading the clutches of criminal police officers.
My ability to appreciate the sophistication of technology used in crimes against me may be the reason for the enthusiastic displays of risk-free criminality, how Australia’s bikers either never have to face court, or charges against them are dismissed, because witnesses refuse to testify. Physical harm delivered remotely against crime witnesses and no doubt their loved ones in their own homes would stop most people. I am so outraged and horrified by what I am forced to learn about Australia’s absurd crime reality, I lost all ability to fear.
In Australia victims of crimes are offered infantilising counselling & sedation in lieu of not only justice, but any attempt of stopping perpetrators of crimes. There is post-humus praise of course, and declarations of zero tolerance for violence against women, when mangled corpses are found in public places, and the causes of death cannot be attributed to suicide.
The refusal of treating crimes as crimes even a corpse found with two perfectly aimed gunshots through her forehead with a long-barrelled shotgun was treated as a non-suspicious suicide to the extent no photographs of the scene were takenresults amongst other things in authorities’ morbid cluelessness about crime in Australia.
Jennifer Tanner was declared to have pulled the trigger with her toes TWICE to deliver the TWO perfectly aimed shots, even though she had no history of mental illness or suicidal tendencies. She had a police officer brother-in-law though.
Dismissing, trivialising cyber-crime reporting attempts, treating crime witnesses & victims as if they were committing an extremely lewd act in public means Australia’s authorities have missed out on decades of incremental learning about technology use for criminal purposes.
Clare O’Neil’s proud declarations about cyber-crime show how hopelessly detached from reality Australia’s authorities are, how alone are crime victims and witnesses, how exposed we are to the crimes of sadistic pervert government insiders drunk on their unchallenged power.
The public/we are a fair game in an endless open season while our taxes are paying the hunters.
Australia’s government, law-enforcement were built on the British template.
The ills so openly exhibited in Australia likely apply to the UK.