Keeping the streets safe for women

It has been a bad week for the British police, and the Metropolitan Police in particular.

Serving Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens was given a full life sentence last Thursday, 30th September 2021, for charges including the false arrest, kidnapping, rape and murder of Sarah Everard. There are things about the case which give me cause to worry:

The judge at the case said that Sarah Everard was a “wholly blameless victim,” and that Couzens used his position as a police officer to coerce her. What difference does wholly blameless make? There is no excuse whatsoever for a serving police officer kidnapping, raping and murdering a woman even if she is caught red-handed committing a crime. Does the judge, who the media are not naming, think that raping and murdering criminals is OK?

The Metropolitan Police have tried to distance themselves from the case describing Couzens as an “ex” officer throughout. Couzens was not thrown out of the force until after he was arrested and used Met ID and handcuffs to abduct Sarah.

Women police officers are often afraid to report behaviour of their male colleagues who will close ranks against them if they speak upand are afraid they will “get kicked in” if they call for help whilst on duty because no one will respond. These allegations were made by Parm Sandhu, an ex-chief superintendent in the Metropolitan Police, said she had been “vilified” when she raised concerns about the way she was treated.

Couzens had form. Three days before Sarah Everard’s murder police were given CCTV footage of Couzens flashing staff at a McDonald’s drive-thru. Police knew Couzens’ name from his car number plate and it was not investigated because they say they were not aware that Couzens was a police officer. This failure meant that Couzens had the ID used in Sarah’s abduction.

Whist working for the Kent police, Couzens had been accused of flashing there and according to The Sun newspaper, he was nicknamed “the rapist” by colleagues there who knew he liked violent porn.

On the same day as the Couzens case Kate Wilson won a tribunal case against the Metropolitan Police for breach of her human rights after a nearly two-year relationship with undercover police officer Mark Stone which started in 2003.

North Yorkshire police and crime commissioner Philip Allott has come under criticism for comments he made about women after Couzens was sentenced. The Yorkshire Post has reported that he has withdrawn his comments and has called those protesting, a campaign group including several lawyers and includes solicitor Andrew Gray a motley campaign group. I find the angle the Yorkshire Post is taking to be unacceptable. Allott had said, in an interview with BBC Radio York, “So women, first of all, need to be streetwise about when they can be arrested and when they can’t be arrested,” a comment that horrofied Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Allott has withdrawn his comment and said he has a lot to learn. I think we have to see action in the North Yorkshire Police, under Allott, to stamp out misogyny and sexism in that force if Allott is to keep his position. It is not enough to apologise, something has to be done.

It isn’t just the Metropolitan police.A 17 year old young black woman was street-wise enough to know what the Police can do. On New Street Station she correctly told two police officers, “You can’t do that.” She was arrested for assault, after the police officers had pushed her to the ground and sat on her. In court this week the police officers continued to say they were harassed, despite CCTV footage from two angles obtained by the defence team that show the young woman looked worried and was backing off, not attacking as was alleged. Both of the Police officers were told off by judge for their attitude even in court, one of them continued and was warned that he could be sent down for contempt of court. The case thrown out. Had it not been for CCTV it would have been the word of the young lady agaist the false evidence of the police and she would have been convicted. Both policemen were back on duty the next day.

Sunday 3 October: The Independent reported that a Metropolitan Police officer who served in the same unit as Sarah Everard’s killer Wayne Couzens has been charged with rape. David Carrick, 46, was arrested on Saturday in Hertfordshire and suspended from the force.

The police are not superheroes. The force is made up of ordinary human beings. The behaviour of the police reflects behaviour that is tolerated by society. The police are not the law. The job of the police is to uphold the law and to protect people from crime, not to be the people from whom we need protecting. There is no qualified immunity from prosecution in the UK, that belongs in the USA and caused problems there, but it seems that police officers acting as if it exists more and more. Even in the USA qualified immunity only gives protection from civil law suits and not criminal law.

We need to be able to trust the police. Terrorism works by undermining the people’s trust in the government to protect them. Police officers and commissioners like the ones mentioned in this blog are undermining the public’s trust in the police force and as such are doing the terrorists job for them. We need to take comments like those of Philip Allott for what they are: Acts of terrorism. Who needs terrorists hen the police are doing their job for them? We need to see the police and the home office taking action to cleat the police of misogyny. It has to be seen to be done to restore trust in the police. It is a vital as anti-terrorism.

It’s not about protecting women. Women should be free to walk where they like, when they like and in the length of skirt that they like without fear of attack. This is about giving them the respect they deserve. Men can make a difference by calling out sexist and misogynistic behaviour when they come across it both to the man concerned and to their boss. We can make a difference simply by giving women respect in this way.

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