More will be done in Warwickshire to protect women from abuse and bring about a change in attitudes to violent crime against women, says Warwickshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Philip Seccombe, as he reflects on the wider implications of the Sarah Everard murder case.
Wayne Couzens, a serving police officer with the Metropolitan Police, was yesterday sentenced to spend the remainder of his life in prison for the abduction, rape and murder of the young marketing executive in London earlier this year.
It is a case that has attracted huge attention nationally, sparking public concern over violent crime and societal attitudes towards women and the police response to offences such as stalking and harassment.
Ensuring these are a major focus for police and other partners in Warwickshire will be a central theme of the forthcoming Police and Crime Plan for the county, Mr Seccombe confirmed, as will measures to ensure that the public has confidence in policing as a whole.
He said: “Like everyone who is involved with policing, I was absolutely horrified by the abduction, rape and murder of Sarah Everard. For a serving police officer to carry out such brutal and horrific offences is beyond comprehension and it is only right that he should spend the rest of his life behind bars. My thoughts are very much with Sarah’s family and friends, who have shown immense dignity since her murder and whose lives have been forever destroyed by the actions of an exceptionally evil and callous individual.
“Sadly, we know that this offence is not an isolated incident, with concerning numbers of women being subjected to abusive, violent or controlling behaviour each year. That’s why I believe we need to see changes, both in the manner in which the state deals with these types of crime, and the efforts we put in to prevent them happening.
“This case has understandably led to questions about policing in the UK and left many women feeling more vulnerable. The vast majority of police officers are committed to protecting people from harm but I know some people feel more apprehensive about their interactions with the police as a result of this case. Warwickshire Police and our partners will be working hard to restore public trust and confidence in police conduct and processes as a matter of critical importance.
“I will shortly be announcing my new Police and Crime Plan for Warwickshire and I can confirm that one of the key areas of focus will be to tackle violence against women and girls. There has been progress in recent years but more needs to be done. I want to ensure this work accelerates further and delivers better outcomes, with strong partnership working to help improve the response to these types of offences.
“To prevent re-victimisation I will put a greater focus on high-quality programmes that educate and divert perpetrators from violent and abusive behaviour. Alongside this I will continue to fund and co-commission high-quality support services for victims, with specialist support for victims of sexual offences, exploitation and domestic abuse.
“I also want to see overall improvements in the way police and other agencies interact with the public. In particular, I want to ensure that whenever and however people make contact with Warwickshire Police they are left with a good impression and have confidence in the service they receive.
“Key to this is implementing better overall communication with a strong victim focus, as well as a rigorous system that ensures that police officers are held to the highest standards of conduct, with proper accountability for serious wrong doing. The public needs to be confident in the processes which select officers, with a strong culture which can spot issues early on, allows for concerns to be raised and takes the appropriate action against misconduct. I will hold the Chief Constable to account to ensure this is the case.
“Overall, it will take a combined effort from police and other agencies to ensure women feel fully safe in their communities and it’s an agenda that will continue throughout my term of office. We do have good foundations to achieve this, as there is already a strong background in partnership working and a collective desire to ensure that our communities not only are safe but feel safe too.”