WEST MERCIA’s first female Chief Constable said the force will do ‘everything possible’ to rebuild women’s trust in the police after the horrific murder of Sarah Everard.
Ms Everard was brutally kidnapped, raped and murdered by former serving Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens in March. The rapist was handed a whole life sentence last week, meaning he will spend the rest of his life in jail.
Sentencing at the Old Bailey on Thursday (September 30), Lord Justice Fulford described the circumstances of the murder as ‘grotesque
His horrific crimes shocked the nation and in statement following his sentencing, Pippa Mills said the entire service had been shaken by his ‘abhorrent’ actions.
“The crimes he committed against Sarah and the abuse of a position of trust counter everything we stand and strive for as a service,” she said.
“I recognise the understandable damage to public trust and confidence in policing. We must now do everything possible to rebuild that faith, to understand women’s fears and concerns and to show beyond doubt that they can put their trust in us.”
West Mercia’s top cop said the force would review the lessons to be learned and said it was absolutely committed to progressing plans to prevent violence against women and girls, to keep them safe and to make them feel safe.
“We prioritise domestic abuse, serious sexual offences, stalking and harassment, aiming to bring offenders to justice and support victims,” she said.
The Chief Constable said women would be ‘apprehensive’ if approached by a lone police officer, particularly in plain clothes.
She backed guidance issued by the Metropolitan Police, despite it being labelled ‘laughable’ and ‘tone deaf’ by critics.
The advice calls on women to ask questions of the plain clothes officer such as where are their colleagues, why are they here and why has the officer has approached them.
“Try to seek some independent verification of what they say, if they have a radio ask to hear the voice of the operator, even ask to speak through the radio to the operator to say who you are and for them to verify you are with a genuine officer, acting legitimately.
“If you feel you are in real and imminent danger and you do not believe the officer is who they say they are seek assistance by shouting out to a passer-by or if you are in the position to do so call 999.”
Among those to criticise the advice was Labour MP and prominent women’s rights campaigner Jess Phillips who said she would have got in the car as Ms Everard did.
West Mercia’s Chief Constable urged people and serving officers to report any concerns over behaviour to the force and said any complaint would be investigated thoroughly
“Our thoughts are with Sarah Everard’s family and friends. Whilst the sentencing hopefully provides some small amount of justice, I recognise that nothing will ever relieve the pain and loss they must be experiencing,” she added.