Sarah Everard: Boris Johnson urges women to trust police after Wayne Couzens revealed to have been guard at House of Commons with full pass access

Boris Johnson has urged women to trust police while acknowledging problems in the criminal justice system in relation to female complaints, rape and sexual violence.

The Prime Minister said “too many women are spending too long” waiting for their cases to be heard, adding the UK Government would “stop at nothing” to make sure more rapists are jailed.

His comments come after Metropolitan Police firearms officer Wayne Couzens 48, was handed a whole life sentence at the Old Bailey on Thursday for murdering Sarah Everard by Lord Justice Fulford, who said his “warped, selfish and brutal” offences had eroded confidence in the police.

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The Commons Speaker has separately asked the Metropolitan Police for an urgent meeting after it emerged Couzens worked on the Parliamentary Estate last year.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle said it was “extremely concerning” that Couzens was deployed to the Houses of Parliament as an armed officer, adding it raises questions about police vetting procedures.

Ms Everard, 33, was walking home from a friend’s house in Clapham, south London, on the evening of March 3 when she was kidnapped, raped and murdered by Couzens, 48.

Mr Johnson told BBC’s Andrew Marr: “My view is that the police do – overwhelmingly – a wonderful job and what I want is the public, and women in particular, girls and young women, women of all ages, to trust the police.

“They are overwhelmingly trustworthy.”

Later, Mr Johnson said the criminal justice system had not been quick enough to act on reports of sexual violence against women and girls.

Speaking to reporters at a youth centre in east Manchester, he said: “The problem is that there is an endemic difficulty in getting the criminal justice system to deal with these complaints fast enough and sometimes to see them take them seriously enough.

“There are delays taking place at every stage in the process. You know the reasons – it’s all the complexities to do with people’s mobile phones, the evidence that’s produced by the defence, and all that kind of stuff.

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“But, in the end, that is no excuse. We have to have these complaints properly dealt with.

“We have to have a situation in which women know that their reporting of rape, sexual, domestic violence is going to be properly taken care of.

“So we’re investing massively in all that stuff to make the streets safer, and some of these most terrible, biggest, dangerous crime types are actually coming down.

“So, we’re focusing on both ends of the process.

“But it’s in the middle, it’s the bit with the criminal justice system, between the reporting and the conviction.

“We need to contract it, we need to give women the confidence that their complaints are being taken seriously.”

Mr Johnson added: “We are putting £25 million more today into CCTV, into street lighting, 10,000 more police already recruited as part of our 20,000, and we’re toughening the sentences for serious sexual offences.

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Asked whether the public could expect conviction rates to go up, the Prime Minister replied: “We’re going to work as hard as we can to achieve that.

“We have to work with the prosecutors, with the police, with the criminal justice system, and that’s what we are going to do.”

The Met Police had previously said Couzens moved to the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command in February 2020 where his primary role was to patrol diplomatic premises, mainly embassies.

On Saturday, a Met spokesman said: “Couzens was deployed to armed static protection duties on the Parliamentary Estate on five occasions from February to July 2020.”

The Parliamentary Estate includes the Palace of Westminster – the location of the House of Commons and House of Lords.

Sir Lindsay said: “Like everyone, I have been sickened by the depravity of Wayne Couzens – and heartbroken for the family of Sarah Everard.

“The news that Couzens was deployed as an armed officer on the Parliamentary Estate is extremely concerning and raises a number of questions about police vetting procedures.

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“To that end, I have asked the Met Police to meet me urgently to discuss how this person could have been deemed suitable for deployment here.

“Further, I will be seeking reassurance that at no time was anyone on the Parliamentary Estate put at risk.

“The security of members and staff has always been my number one priority, so I want to know how this man could ever have crossed the parliamentary threshold.”

Couzens was said in court to have been “attracted to brutal sexual pornography” as far back as 2002.

The police watchdog previously said he was linked to a flashing incident in 2015 and two more incidents just days before he killed Ms Everard.

Parm Sandhu, an ex-chief superintendent at the Met, said urgent action is needed to restore public confidence in the police.

She told Sky News’s Trevor Phillips on Sunday: “Everybody who works in policing now should be re-vetted. Those people who got through the vetting procedure 20 years ago, 30 years ago, all of them.

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“Every single person needs to be reviewed and if anything comes up in their past – it doesn’t have to be a conviction, it just needs to be come to notice, because this man did come to notice.

“So, every person should be re-vetted and reassessed as to whether or not they are safe to be working with members of the community and members of the public.

“It needs to be done now as an urgent measure to reassure the public and rebuild the trust and confidence that policing has lost, but it needs to be done on a regular basis so that we don’t have anybody that even comes close to the actions of Wayne Couzens.”



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