The British government has launched an inquiry into police failures that allowed a serving officer to use his position to kidnap Sarah Everard before raping and murdering her.
Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens, who showed Ms Everard his warrant card when he abducted her off a London street, was sentenced last week to a whole-life term for his crimes with no possibility of release.
During the investigation into the murder it emerged that Couzens was linked to a number of alleged incidents of indecent exposure and was known to some of his colleagues by the nickname The Rapist.
"It is abhorrent that a serving police officer was able to abuse his position of power, authority and trust to commit such a horrific crime," home secretary Priti Patel told the Conservative party conference in Manchester.
“The public have a right to know what systematic failures enabled his continued employment as a police officer. We need answers as to why this was allowed to happen.
“I can confirm today that there will be an inquiry to give the independent oversight needed to ensure that something like this can never happen again.”
The inquiry will initially be non-statutory but the Home Office said this was to ensure it could begin quickly and that it could become a statutory inquiry later. The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) is conducting investigations into the handling by Kent Police and the Metropolitan Police of indecent exposure allegations against Couzens.
The new inquiry will draw on the outcome of those investigations to examine Couzens’s previous behaviour and will establish a definitive account of his conduct leading up to his conviction, as well as any opportunities missed. It will then look at any specific issues arising from its findings, including vetting practices, professional standards and discipline, and workplace behaviour in the police.
Labour’s shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said Ms Patel’s announcement of the inquiry was half-hearted, adding that it should be put on a robust, statutory footing.
"Labour will study the details of what is proposed very carefully. But taking action on the issue of violence against women and girls cannot be delayed for months or even years pending the outcome of the inquiry," he said. "Today, the government should be getting on with implementing all the recommendations of the damning report from the Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services. Yet ministers still continue to dither.
“When Parliament next sits, the home hecretary must bring forward legislation that should toughen laws on street harassment, increase sentences for rape and stalking, fast-track rape and serious sexual violence cases through the courts, and enshrine the rights of victims in a Victims’ Law. Action is needed urgently and the government has the power to do something about it.”