The police watchdog is investigating whether Wayne Couzens was involved in a “racist” and “misogynistic” Whatsapp group.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct is looking into the conduct of five officers over allegations they sent discriminatory messages to one another months before Sarah Everard’s death.
The Metropolitan Police has also launched a fresh probe into whether Wayne Couzens committed more crimes before offences against Ms Everard took place.
A senior officer admitted a vetting check on the former police officer was not done “correctly” when he joined the Met in 2018.
At this time Couzens was linked to an indecent exposure incident at a McDonald’s in Swanley, Kent, just 72 hours before Ms Everard was abducted in March.
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At a glance: 5 key points
- The Met announced it will no longer deploy plain clothes officers on their own after the sentencing hearing was told Couzens had used lockdown rules to falsely arrest Ms Everard during the abduction
- The force has also promised to publish a new strategy for tackling violence against women and girls, outlining how it will prioritise action against sexual and violent predatory offenders
- At a briefing at Scotland Yard following the sentencing, Assistant Met Commissioner Nick Ephgrave told reporters Couzens was not named in the Swanley incident but his car was reported to officers, who were said to have not yet completed the investigation
- Mr Ephgrave said the Met had been referred to the police watchdog over the Swanley incident and a file sent to the Crown Prosecution Service in relation to the alleged crime itself
- Plain clothes officers will not be deployed on their own and will be “in pairs” but there will be occasions where that is not possible given that off-duty officers not in uniform “put themselves on duty” when they come across an incident
What’s been said
Met Deputy Commissioner Sir Stephen House told the London Assembly’s police and crime committee on Thursday that the actions of Couzens “constitute a gross betrayal of everything in policing that we believe in, everything that the Met stands for”, adding: “He was one of us and we need to look at ourselves very, very carefully to understand, a, how was he allowed to be one of us, and what does it say about us as an organisation that he was.”
He said the case has raised questions on recruitment and vetting, adding: “We know we have to work to rebuild trust and confidence, and we will do all we can to achieve that.”
A vetting check was not carried out “correctly” on Couzens when he joined the force in 2018, linking him to another indecent exposure allegation in Kent in 2015, Assistant Met Commissioner Nick Ephgrave said.
The vetting did not flag up that a vehicle associated with Couzens had been identified in the Kent Police investigation.
But Mr Ephgrave said that even if it had come up in the vetting process, it would not have changed the outcome because the investigation resulted in no further action and Couzens was never named as a suspect.
Couzens, 48, was handed a whole life sentence at the Old Bailey on Thursday by Lord Justice Fulford, who said his “warped, selfish and brutal” offences had eroded confidence in the police.
It comes as The Met said their new strategy will accompany a Predatory Offender Unit which, since last November, has resulted in the arrests of more than 2,000 suspects for domestic abuse, sex offences, and child abuse.
The Met have also promised to “step up” patrols and provide an increased police presence in areas identified as “hotspot” locations for violence and harassment.
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