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Soham-style inquiry to examine Sarah Everard murder

The Home Secretary and London’s Mayor have announced an inquiry into the Sarah Everard murder.

A Soham-style government inquiry will look at how murderer Wayne Couzens was able to remain an officer despite a series of allegations about his conduct.

Home Secretary Priti Patel used her speech to the Conservative Party conference in Manchester to announce a formal inquiry.

She said: “The public have a right to know what systemic failures enabled his continued employment as a police officer.”

She told the event that the independent review will look at his behaviour and whether there are wider issues across policing.

The inquiry will be made up of 2 parts. The first part will examine Wayne Couzens’ previous behaviour and will establish a definitive account of his conduct leading up to his conviction, as well as any opportunities missed, drawing on the Independent Office for Police Conduct’s (IOPC) investigations, once concluded.

The second part will look at any specific issues raised by the first part of the inquiry, which could include wider issues across policing – including vetting practices, professional standards and discipline, and workplace behaviour.

Additionally, the Home Secretary will write to the independent police inspectorate HMICFRS to commission a thematic inspection of vetting and counter-corruption procedures in policing across England and Wales – including forces’ ability to detect and deal with misogynistic and predatory behaviour. She has asked for initial findings by the end of 2021, and these will be used to inform the inquiry into Couzens.

The inquiry will also draw on the conclusions of current investigations by the IOPC into various allegations and incidents throughout Couzens’ career.

The Home Office said in a statement: "Given the need to provide assurance as swiftly as possible, this will be established as a non-statutory inquiry, but can be converted to a statutory inquiry if required."

Ms Patel’s announcement was welcomed by the Met Commissioner who said: “We absolutely recognise it is important for the public to see the full details about what happened.

“We will work closely with the Inquiry team and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate to provide every support to them across all parts of their wide reaching and important mission,” she added. “This will include ensuring the review into our culture and standards that I announced yesterday, to make fast time progress rebuilding trust and confidence in us, is closely linked in to this work.”

London Mayor Sadiq Khan revealed he had agreed the decision at a meeting with Ms Patel.

“"This inquiry must leave no stone unturned to ensure that the failures that led to a serving police officer killing Sarah Everard can never happen again,” he said in a statement.

But the announcement means there are now three investigations into Couzens under way.

This includes the Met's own inquiry led by an independent Chair into the force’s culture and standards.

And the Independent Office for Police Conduct is also investigating  an allegation of indecent exposure against Couzens days before the murder.

The IOPC is also investigating claims that five officers shared misogynistic, racist, and homophobic material with him in a WhatsApp group.

It is also looking into claims of indecent exposure while he was serving with Kent Police dating back to 2015.

But the inquiries will take up a significant amount of senior officer time and there is no indication on how much it will cost.

London Mayor, Sadiq Khan said the inquiry was needed as another Met officer had been arrested for rape and the allegations over the WhatsApp group.

He said it was vital to stop further erosion of public trust.

“"Over recent days, I’ve been in detailed discussions with the Home Secretary about how we must urgently do everything necessary to rebuild trust and confidence in the police – in London and across the country. We agreed that the gravity of the situation required no less than a proper inquiry,” the Mayor said. 

“And while I know the vast majority of officers are decent and dedicated public servants, the inquiry must also address reports of widespread cultural issues,” he said.

“All police officers must adhere to the highest possible standards, we must stamp out misogyny, sexism, racism and homophobia, root out those who abuse their trusted position as officers, and ensure that tackling violence against women and girls is treated with the highest priority.”     

Home Affairs Select Committee Chair Yvette Cooper warned the inquiry must also look at how forces deal with allegations involving their own staff.

She shared on social media: "Important that it looks more widely at handling of allegations of violence against women and girls by police officers and staff.

"Real concerns that these are not dealt with properly - vital that they are in order to ensure women’s safety and rebuild trust."

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