Our response to issues raised by the crimes of Wayne Couzens
Wayne Couzens has been sentenced to a whole-life term for the kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard.
The full details of his crimes are deeply concerning and raise entirely legitimate questions. This is the most horrific of crimes, but we recognise this is part of a much bigger and troubling picture.
There have been other murders of women in public spaces, including the killings of Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry, and very recently of Sabina Nessa. All of these bring into sharp focus our urgent duty to do more to protect women and girls.
Understanding the concerns of women in London is really important to us and we are undertaking a range of activity so we can better listen and respond.
Couzens’ crimes are the most extreme example of this betrayal. They have been shattering for everybody and of course people have questions about the integrity of officers.
We only want the best of the best in the Met and we will always act when our employees fall below the standards we and the public expect and erode the trust we depend upon.
All officers must and will now expect to work harder to gain the confidence of the public and be understanding and tolerant of reasonable questioning of their actions and identity as they go about their duty to protect Londoners.
more reassurance patrols and an increased police presence in key “hotspot” locations for offences of violence and harassment
an urgent review of all current investigations into allegations of sexual misconduct and domestic abuse against our officers and staff to make certain that those who made the allegations are being properly supported and the investigations are comprehensive
an urgent dip sample of cases from the last 10 years where sexual misconduct and domestic abuse allegations have been made and those accused remain in the Met, to ensure that appropriate management measures, including vetting reviews, have been taken
a root and branch review of the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command, with a particular focus on recruitment, vetting, culture, professional standards and supervision
an increase to the number of investigators within Professional Standards department to strengthen our proactive capability and prevent instances of our people abusing their positions of trust
Wayne Couzens transferred into the Met from the Civil Nuclear Constabulary (CNC) in September 2018. His first posting was to South Area, serving initially in a Safer Neighbourhood Team, before joining a response team covering the Bromley area in February 2019.
He then moved to the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command in February 2020 where his primary role was to patrol diplomatic premises, mainly embassies.
Couzens stopped being paid as a police officer immediately following his guilty pleas. This was as soon as legally possible. The Met held an accelerated misconduct hearing following his guilty plea. He was dismissed on 16 July.
It has been claimed he was given a repugnant nickname while working for another police service. We are not aware of any evidence that supports this claim which was attributed to an anonymous source in the media. No one has come forward to us to confirm he was known as this.
We continue to build a picture of Couzens and would urgently appeal to anyone with information about this allegation during his service, including with the Civil Nuclear Constabulary, to contact us immediately.
Couzens was a serving and vetted police officer when he joined the Met. He had no criminal convictions or cautions and he was not subject to any misconduct proceedings during his time at the Met.
We are not aware of any other concerns raised by his colleagues, or anyone else, regarding his behaviour prior to him joining the Met or since.
Following his arrest, we reviewed his vetting. This review confirmed he passed vetting processes.
However, it also found one of a range of checks may not have been undertaken correctly.
This check related to information regarding a vehicle which was registered to Couzens and that was linked to an allegation of indecent exposure in Kent in 2015.
Kent Police investigated this allegation and decided to take no further action. Our review found that the record of this allegation and outcome may not have been found during the vetting checks.
However, the review we conducted found that despite this there was no information available to the Met at the time that would have changed the vetting decision.
We continue to build up a picture of Couzens’ career and wider activities. We would like to appeal for anyone who has information of concern about Couzens - whether police colleagues or members of the public - to contact us directly.
We want the public to have confidence in our vetting and are taking extra measures to ensure our processes are the best they can be and address any potential weaknesses.
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) is currently conducting an inspection of the Met . We have formally written to the Inspectorate and asked that their work in this, and in the annual all-force police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy inspection, pays particular attention to our vetting practices.
Vetting is a snapshot in time and unfortunately, can never 100% guarantee an individual’s integrity.
Vetting is one of a number of activities that we undertake to preserve the integrity of our organisation and it is only as good as the day on which it is carried out.
Therefore we re-vet officers periodically. We have Right Line, a confidential number which allows officers and staff to anonymously report wrongdoing. We have our dedicated Directorate of Professional Standards who are committed to proactively rooting out officers who do not meet our standards and let the public and the police down. Not only that but we have internal and external inspections to scrutinise our processes.
Couzens betrayed Sarah and all of us when he used his knowledge, status and equipment to deceive and abduct Sarah and we do not understate the impact this has had on public confidence.
The fact that he used equipment given to him by the Met is reprehensible and it compounds the dreadful nature of his crimes.
Nevertheless, it has to be the case that officers are able, on occasion, to take some or all of their equipment with them, between places of duty and where needed, travelling to and from work. They do not require explicit permission. It is a personal decision that has to be done for legitimate reasons and that they will have to justify if challenged.
Couzens used his warrant card as part of his deception to identify himself as a police officer. Every officer carries a warrant card.
Officers must only use their warrant cards for specific purposes – identification or to demonstrate they are acting as a police officer.
Met officers also take an oath where they promise to be a police officer around the clock and are expected to intervene even if off duty if they see someone committing an offence or there is another need to protect the public. In these circumstances their warrant card helps them identify themselves and demonstrate they are acting as an officer.
The Met received an allegation of indecent exposure some 72 hours before Sarah was abducted. That crime was allocated for investigation but by the time of Sarah’s abduction it was not concluded.
The progress of that investigation was voluntarily referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct and is subject to an investigation by them. It also remains the subject of a live criminal inquiry.
It is important for us to re-evaluate our approach to indecent exposure. This is part of our re-evaluation of our strategy for tackling violence against women and girls.
We are reviewing our crime screening process in respect of indecent exposure. We want to better understand the information we have as part of our approach to the identification and policing of crime hotspots.
We believe this is an under-reported crime.
We do not underestimate how difficult it can be for people to talk about these offences but we would urge anyone who is the victim of this sort of offending to report it to us quickly so we can respond.
We are also focused on improving detections both for indecent exposure but for a broader range of offences committed mainly against women.
Verifying an officer's identity and intentions
It is very unusual for a single plain clothed police officer to engage with anyone. However, if you do find yourself in an interaction with a lone police officer in plain clothes and you are on your own, that officer will provide verification of their identity by putting you in direct contact with their colleagues in the local police operations room.
Using a video call, which can either be to your own device, or to the officer’s device, you will be able to see and speak to a uniformed police officer in what will visibly be a police operations room and they will be able to conduct the necessary checks and provide reassurance that the officer is who they say they are and they are acting appropriately.
Additionally, you can still call 999, to ask for verification of an officer’s identification and reassurance.