Farah Nazeer, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid said:
“Today Wayne Couzens was rightly sentenced to whole life imprisonment for the murder of Sarah Everard.
He was a serving Metropolitan police officer who abused his position of trust and authority in the most abhorrent and sickening way – by abusing his power as a police officer to falsely arrest her. A whole life sentence is the only appropriate punishment for this violent and dangerous perpetrator.
Women’s confidence in the police dropped dramatically following Couzens’ arrest and this was underpinned by the heavy-handed and inappropriate treatment of women attending the vigil to remember her life. The police need to urgently address the culture of sexism that exists, prioritise violence against women and girls to the same level as terrorism and utilise their funding to ensure that they tackle the issues of male violence towards women. They should also now embark on an urgent programme of restorative work to regain the confidence of women.
The report from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) urged fundamental cross-system change to tackle the epidemic of violence against women and girls (VAWG) and pressed for the issue to be given much higher priority. This requires institutional and systemic change, which requires police forces to work with specialist organisations, such as Women’s Aid to ensure that all police staff are trained adequately to improve the response given to all women who have experienced violence and domestic abuse. This would also address some of the deep-seated inequalities and sexist attitudes that still exist across so many police forces.
Far too many women continue to tell us that their experiences at the hands of violent men are belittled, disbelieved and dismissed by police and the criminal justice system, the very services that are supposed to protect us. Too many violent and abusive men escape justice because lenient sentencing does not reflect the severity of their crimes. For too long violence against women and girls has been the poor relation when it comes to apprehending, monitoring and sentencing offenders, and this is borne largely out of out-dated sexist and misogynistic attitudes.
The HMICFRS report, published on 17th September, highlighted facts that we have known for a long time: that the overall police response to VAWG is inadequate, inconsistent and flawed, but that very night, Sabina Nessa’s life was ended by a violent man, and her death became another tragic statistic as yet another woman murdered by a man every three days in the UK.
I urge the government to act now to ensure a whole-system response to tackling violence against women and girls, including through investing in training for key statutory services – ranging from schools to healthcare, the police to transport, business, housing and many more. Only then that we can look forward to effective changes in attitudes, responses and outcomes for women and children.”