2021-09-30 13:12:16 Sarah Everard’s Killer, Wayne Couzens, Sentenced to Life in Prison

Sarah Everard’s Killer, Wayne Couzens, Sentenced to Life in Prison

LONDON: The police officer who pleaded guilty to the kidnapping, rape, and murder of Sarah Everard, a 33-year-old London woman whose death sparked national calls for better women’s rights, was sentenced to life in prison on Thursday by Britain’s highest criminal court.

The sentence was announced a day after prosecutors detailed how the officer, Wayne Couzens, abused his authority and misled Ms. Everard into believing she was being arrested under the guise of coronavirus restrictions imposed during a national lockdown in March.

Mr. Couzens had “irreparably damaged the lives of Sarah Everard’s family and friends,” said Judge Adrian Bruce Fulford, and “eroded the confidence that the public are entitled to have in the police force in England and Wales.”

People sentenced to life in prison in the United Kingdom rarely serve the entire term, but there is an exception for the most serious murder cases, when a judge issues a “whole life order,” as was the case for Mr. Couzens. In this case, the offender is sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

This week, prosecutor Tom Little detailed the case against Mr. Couzens in London’s central criminal court. Mr. Couzens went “hunting for a lone young female to kidnap and rape,” according to those present, including Ms. Everard’s family.

Mr. Couzens then confronted Ms. Everard as she walked home from a friend’s house, committing “false arrest” to get her into his car, according to the prosecutor.

Mr. Couzens, a diplomatic protection officer with the Metropolitan Police, presented Ms. Everard with a police identity card and handcuffed her before driving her out of the city, raping her, killing her, and setting her body on fire, according to Mr. Little.

Seven days later, her remains were discovered in a wooded area near Ashford, Kent, about 60 miles from London. On Thursday, Mr. Couzens’ defense lawyer stated that his client did not dispute any of the facts outlined by the prosecution but argued against the possibility of a life sentence, citing his guilty plea among other factors.

The details of Mr. Couzens’ calculated attack and abuse of power as a police officer have shocked rights activists and lawmakers who have pushed for a change in the way police deal with violence against women.

Before the sentencing hearing began on Wednesday, the Metropolitan Police acknowledged in a statement that Mr. Couzens’ “actions raise many concerns.”

Following Ms. Everard’s death, the government commissioned an independent watchdog group to conduct a review of the police response to violence against women and girls in England and Wales. The report, which was released this month, called for radical changes in how these cases are handled throughout the system.

On Thursday, Zo Billingham, an inspector at Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services, told BBC Woman’s Hour that Mr. Couzens’ actions had “struck a hammer blow to the very heart of police legitimacy.”

“We cannot dismiss Wayne Couzens as a one-off, a rare occurrence, or an outlier,” she told the BBC. “Every police force in England and Wales must now come forward and tell their communities exactly what they are doing to keep women safe.”

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Sarah Everard’s Killer, Wayne Couzens, Sentenced to Life in Prison