Whole-life sentence: What is the sentence Wayne Couzens was handed for rape and murder of Sarah Everard?

Whole-life orders are the most severe punishment available in the UK criminal justice system for those who commit the most serious crimes.

In being handed such a sentence, Wayne Couzens joins a string of some of the country’s most dangerous offenders, who are expected to die behind bars.

What was Wayne Couzens sentenced to?

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Wayne Couzens has been sentenced to a rare whole life in prison for the kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard in March this year.

The former Metropolitan police officer was sentenced after nearly two days of evidence.

Sentencing at the Old Bailey on Thursday, Lord Justice Fulford described the circumstances of the murder as “grotesque”.

He said the seriousness of the case was so “exceptionally high” that it warranted a whole life order.

Trigger Warning: The following content may be distressing and upsetting to readers.

Wayne Couzens has been sentenced to a rare whole life in prison for the kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard in March this year. (Photo: Elizabeth Cook/PA Wire).

What happened to Sarah Everard?

The court had heard how Couzens used his Metropolitan Police-issue warrant card and handcuffs to snatch 33-year-old marketing executive Sarah Everard as she walked home from a friend’s house in Clapham, south London, on the evening of March 3.

The firearms officer, who had clocked off from a 12-hour shift at the American embassy that morning, drove to a secluded rural area near Dover in Kent, where he parked up and raped Ms Everard.

Ms Everard, who lived in Brixton, south London, had been strangled with Couzens’ police issue belt by 2.30am the following morning.

Couzens then burned her body in a refrigerator in an area of woodland he owned in Hoads Wood, near Ashford, before dumping the remains in a nearby pond.

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What does whole-life orders mean and who is serving them?

There are 60 criminals serving whole-life orders, according to Government figures to the end of June.

Whole-life orders mean these criminals will never be considered for release, unless there are exceptional compassionate grounds to warrant it.

Milly Dowler’s killer, Levi Bellfield, is thought to be the only criminal in UK legal history to be serving two whole-life orders – for her murder, the killings of Marsha McDonnell and Amelie Delagrange as well as the attempted murder of Kate Sheedy.

Other notorious criminals serving whole-life orders include: Gloucester serial killer Rose West; Michael Adebolajo, one of Fusilier Lee Rigby’s killers; Mark Bridger, who murdered five-year-old April Jones in Wales; neo-Nazi Thomas Mair, who killed MP Jo Cox; Grindr serial killer Stephen Port; and most recently the Reading terror attacker Khairi Saadallah, who murdered three men in a park.

Before they died, Moors murderer Ian Brady and his girlfriend Myra Hindley, Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe, and doctor Harold Shipman – thought to be one of Britain’s most prolific serial killers – were also among those serving whole-life orders.

In the past, home secretaries could issue whole-life tariffs and these are now determined by judges.

Under the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which is currently going through Parliament, the Government is trying to expand the use of whole-life orders for premeditated murder of a child.

The reforms would also allow judges to hand out the maximum sentence to 18- to 20-year-olds in exceptional cases, such as for acts of terrorism leading to mass loss of life.

It would also give judges the discretion, in exceptional circumstances, to impose a whole-life order on offenders aged 18 or over but under 21.

Rape Crisis Scotland helpline: 08088 01 03 02

Scottish Women's Aid helpline: 0800 027 1234

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