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Met chief warns violence against women needs to be treated like terrorism

Metropolitan Police commissioner Mark Rowley said future governments need to give police sufficient funding to deal with violence against women and girls (PA)
Metropolitan Police commissioner Mark Rowley said future governments need to give police sufficient funding to deal with violence against women and girls (PA)

Britain’s top officer has warned that tackling violence against women and girls needs the same level of funding as terrorism policing as he faces questions over the recruitment of Sarah Everard’s killer to police.

Sir Mark Rowley’s comments came as the mayor of London branded the recruitment of Wayne Couzens and repeated failures to stop him as “one of the most shattering accounts of failure in British policing history”.

Sadiq Khan hit out at a series of blunders which allowed Couzens to be recruited to three different police forces after last week a damning inquiry uncovered a string of missed opportunities to catch the killer.

The inquiry, led by Lady Elish Angiolini, branded Couzens a “predatory sex offender and murderer” who should have never been a police officer, and laid bare a history of alleged sexual offending dating back nearly 20 years before he murdered the 33-year-old marketing executive.

At a meeting of the London Policing Board on Tuesday, Mr Khan expressed his deepest sympathies with Ms Everard’s loved ones who on Sunday marked the third anniversary of her kidnap and murder by Couzens while he was a serving Metropolitan Police officer.

Ms Everard was walking home in Clapham, south London, on 3 March 2021 when she was tricked by Couzens, who falsely arrested her before driving to Kent where he raped and strangled and dumped her burnt body in woodland.

“Knowing that a police officer harboured the capacity for such sadistic violence still haunts our city,” Mr Khan said.

“It’s a perpetual reminder of why we’re here and the importance of this board.”

Sarah Everard was murdered by Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens (PA)
Sarah Everard was murdered by Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens (PA)

The London Policing Board was established to oversee Met police reform in the wake of Baroness Louise Casey’s review of the Met, which concluded the force was institutionally racist, misogynistic and homophobic.

Mr Khan added: “Whilst the Met is now on the path to fundamental reform, we’re clearly not there yet.

“I see police reform as a critical part of my mayoralty, and we must not be satisfied until Londoners have the police service they deserve.”

In response, Met commissioner Sir Mark said he was “deeply, deeply sorry” to Ms Everard’s loved ones and repeated his comments that the report was an “urgent call for action”.

He added that a BBC documentary Sarah Everard: The Search for Justice on the murder due to air on Tuesday evening also highlights the best of the Met, as it documents the police hunt for Ms Everard’s killer and the moment they apprehended Couzens.

The country’s top officer also said future governments need to give police the same level of funding to deal with violence against women and girls as terrorism or organised crime.

“The aim nationally should be to treat it as a national security threat like we treat organised crime, like we treat terrorism,” he said.

“When you look at the amount of harm that predatory men create in communities and to individuals, that’s what it deserves.”

He told the board that there are hundreds of thousands of men in Britain who are a threat to women and girls.

He said that 34,000 men had allegations made against them in one year in London, while nationally 800,000 women have been sexually assaulted.

Separate estimates from the National Crime Agency suggest that 750,000 men pose a sexual threat to children.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan branded the recruitment of Couzens ‘one of the most shattering accounts of failure in British policing history’ (PA)
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan branded the recruitment of Couzens ‘one of the most shattering accounts of failure in British policing history’ (PA)

Sir Mark said: “You start to add these numbers together. There are a lot of men who are a threat to women and children. And we’re trying to build the capabilities to both react better to the crimes that are reported, and to proactively in public space or with dangerous offenders protect women and children.

“And we’re making progress by being clever, better organised, but we’re going to need the support of future governments to really build the scale of resource that to deal with this problem across the country that is the same kind of resource that you have proportionately to deal with, say terrorism and organised crime.”

His comments come after The Independent revealed at least 350 women have been killed by men in the three years since Ms Everard’s murder.

He told board members although his force was still considering 16 recommendations made by Lady Elish in her inquiry to improve police vetting checks and responses to indecent exposure, he was not against any of her findings, adding: “I have seen nothing that I disagree with.”

He also noted that the number of officers who fail police vetting when applying to join the Met has doubled in the past three years as they drive up standards.