Sarah Everard murder: Woman police officer describes being vilified for reporting misogynistic colleagues

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Photo taken in London, United Kingdom
Politicians have said public trust in the police has been eroded by the Sarah Everard case. (Getty)

Questions around police culture have been thrust into the spotlight in the wake of the sentencing of Sarah Everard's murderer.

On Thursday, Wayne Couzens was handed an extremely rare whole life order, meaning he will die in prison for Ms Everard's rape and murder.

The judge who handed out the sentence ruled a full life sentence was appropriate because of the way Couzens had abused his position of authority to kidnap Ms Everard.

During the court case it was revealed Couzens used his warrant card and handcuffs to pretend to arrest Ms Everard.

Watch: Cressida Dick - Couzens ‘brought shame on the Met’

Instead, Couzens drove for 80 miles before he raped and killed her.

Harriet Harman MP, the chairwoman of the Joint Committee on Human Rights has called for the resignation of Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick over the handling of the Everard case.

She said there needed to be urgent action to "rebuild the shattered confidence of women in the police service", and told Dame Cressida she needs to step aside to "enable these changes to be taken through".

The Met Police was also widely criticised for what was regarded has a heavy-handed and disproportionate response to the vigil held in Ms Everard's honour in the days after her murder.

Read more: 'Warped' killer Wayne Couzens argued for shorter jail term 'as he tried to minimise Sarah Everard's family's suffering'

The case has brought into question how the public can trust the police as well as the culture within forces across the country.

Parm Sandhu, a former metropolitan police officer, told the BBC there was a culture in the police where if a female officer reported something suspicious about a male officer then the men would close ranks to support the accused person.

When asked what she experienced "behind the curtain" when she was working, Sandhu responded: "The police service is very sexist and misogynistic unfortunately the majority of police officers are male and it's put down to banter, it's put down to 'oh, you can't take a joke'."

Wayne Couzens will die in prison. (PA)
Wayne Couzens will die in prison. (PA)

She added a lot of women will not report their colleagues and said the one time she had she was "vilified".

"What happens is the male police officers will then close ranks and the fear that most women police officers have got is that when you're calling for help, you press that emergency button on your radio they're not going to turn up and you're going to get kicked in in the street," Sandhu said.

In an interview on LBC radio, an officer known only as Kelly from Birmingham said that if she was stopped by an unmarked police car on a quiet residential street with a single officer she would run away.

She said: "If you're on a quiet residential street and you genuinely feel fearful, then I'd run."

She added: "You don't commit an offence by running away from the police."

Read more: Wayne Couzens took his children to play in woods where he dumped Sarah Everard's body

Female Traffic Police Officer Recording Details Of Road Traffic Accident On Mobile Phone
A PC said she would run away if a lone officer stopped her on a quiet street. (Getty)

Kelly told host James O'Brien said she "walks home with keys in her hands" to protect herself, as do many other women.

When asked by O'Brien what was the proper way to deal with a lone officer from an unmarked police car she replied it depended on the situation.

She noted in Everard's case she was taken from a fairly busy main road, in that situation she recommended asking to see the officer's warrant card, calling 999 and asking them to confirm why they were being stopped.

She said under normal circumstances the officer should have radioed in their intent to stop and arrest someone, so a person at the police station would be able to confirm this.

Kelly did note it was "highly unlikely" an unmarked car would pull up and make a seemingly random arrest.

Her comments were echoed by Sandhu, who said: "I think women would hesitate now to get in a car with a lone police officer who is not in a uniform. 

"If you're stopped by a lone police officer comply check that they've got body-worn video, if you're unhappy phone 999 and say 'I'm unhappy and I feel scared' do not get into a car unless it's a marked police vehicle and insist on them calling another officer."

Home secretary Priti Patel has backed Dame Cressida but said the Met needed to answer "serious questions" over the whole affair.

Earlier this month Dame Cressida's contract was extended by two years, which means she will continue to lead the Met until 2024.

Watch: Rape survivor calls for public awareness campaign to make face covering exemptions clearer

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