The Washington Post

U.K. judge slams police for not investigat­ing past crimes of London officer

- BY KARLA ADAM Annabelle timsit contribute­d to this report.

LONDON — A former veteran London police officer, whose rape and murder of a young woman shocked a nation, was sentenced Monday for exposing himself to other women before the murder, raising questions about whether opportunit­ies were missed to stop him.

Judge Juliet May said that the fact that the police didn’t question him about previous incidents “can only have served to confirm and strengthen, in the defendant’s mind, a dangerous belief in his invincibil­ity, in his power sexually to dominate and abuse women without being stopped.”

In March 2021, Wayne Couzens, then a police officer, murdered Sarah Everard, a 33-year-old marketing executive. The case sparked a national public outcry over women’s safety and deeply undermined confidence in policing.

It has also drawn wider attention to the culture within police forces around the country. Last year, the police watchdog found that culture and security lapses in police forces in England and Wales were leading to applicants with questionab­le background­s being cleared to join.

On Monday, Couzens was sentenced to 19 months in prison for exposing himself to women, including at a Mcdonald’s drivethrou­gh just four days before Everard was killed.

This sentence will make no difference to the amount of time Couzens spends in prison, as he is serving a whole life sentence for the murder of Everard, the most serious punishment he could have received.

In her judgment, which was televised by the BBC, May said that the sentencing of the flashing incidents is a “public recognitio­n that offenses have been committed,” and it noted the “impact on the victims.”

Stuart Cundy, deputy assistant commission­er of the Metropolit­an Police, told the BBC: “I’m really sorry for all they have had to go through. Like many, I wish that Wayne Couzens had been arrested for these offences before he went on to rape and murder Sarah Everard, and for that I’m sorry.”

But the women whom he exposed himself to have said that more could have done to stop Couzens, given the evidence that has emerged showing he was a serial sex offender before killing Everard.

In her sentencing, May summarized some of the offenses, including the time in November 2020 when Couzens emerged naked from the trees on a quiet country lane to masturbate in front of a cyclist, while “looking directly into [her] eyes as he did so.” He was on duty at the time.

The judge said the cyclist reported the incident to some walkers, one of whom was a female police officer, and then reported it to the police, but no one followed up with her.

In her impact statement read out in court, the female cyclist said that her “freedom” to “walk on my own, or to cycle to the railway station, without fear, are now denied to me.”

“Four months after you exposed yourself to me, you raped and murdered an innocent woman,” she said. “There were opportunit­ies to identify you, and they were not taken. I did not feel that, when I reported your crime, it was taken as seriously as I felt that it should have been.”

On two other occasions, on Feb. 14 and 27, 2021, Couzens exposed himself to staff at a Mcdonald’s drive-through while handing over money to pay for his food. On the second occasion, staff reported the license plate number of the car, which was registered in Couzens’s name. He also paid for food using a credit card in his name.

One staff member said that even though the incident was reported, she was not contacted until after Everard’s murder.

“If he had been held accountabl­e when we had reported the crime, we could have saved Sarah,” said the employee.

She added that she no longer walks home after her shifts.

“It should not be for me to have to take measures to keep myself safe,” she said in a statement. “I should not have to be in fear of somebody attacking me and I should feel able to walk home while feeling safe.”

 ?? Frank Augstein/associated PRESS ?? People gather March 13, 2021, for a memorial service for Sarah Everard, who was killed by London police officer Wayne Couzens.
Frank Augstein/associated PRESS People gather March 13, 2021, for a memorial service for Sarah Everard, who was killed by London police officer Wayne Couzens.

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