Sarah Everard: Independent inquiry to be launched into police 'failures' surrounding Wayne Couzens

Among those welcoming the inquiry is a woman who says her own rape allegations weren't properly investigated, ITV News Political Correspondent Libby Wiener reports

An independent inquiry will be launched into the "systematic" police "failures" that allowed Wayne Couzens to continue his employment, despite a number of red flags, before he murdered Sarah Everard.

The inquiry will examine the 48-year-old's 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 former officer had been accused of indecent exposure just days before he abducted, raped and murdered Ms Everard.

Announcing the inquiry at the Conservative Party Conference, Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “The public have a right to know what systematic failures enabled his continued employment as a police officer.

“We need answers as to why this was allowed to happen.

“I can confirm today there will be an inquiry, to give the independent oversight needed, to ensure something like this can never happen again.”

The inquiry chair has not yet been confirmed.

It comes after an announcement from the Metropolitan Police, who Couzens worked for when he carried out his attack, that the force would be the subject of a separate independent review.

Met Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick said she will bring in a "prominent" individual to conduct a review into the force's culture and standards, admitting "legitimate questions" had been raised.

An announcement about who will lead the review will be made next week, and the reviewer will be given free rein to look at the Met internally.

33-year-old Sarah Everard was falsely arrested by then-police officer Wayne Couzens. Credit: PA

Dame Cressida will stay in position to oversee the review, and ruled out resigning in the wake of Ms Everard's murder.

Ms Patel claimed the government has “redoubled” efforts to help make women and girls feel safer following the murder of Ms Everard.

The home secretary said: “Her murderer, whose name I will not repeat, was a monster. His explicit intention was to instil fear and terror in women and girls.

“I say this as Home Secretary, but also as a woman – such unconscionable crimes and acts of violence against women and girls have no place in our society.

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“That is why I have redoubled my efforts to ensure women and girls feel safer.”

Labour has criticised the government's move to make the inquiry non-statutory, meaning it does not have legal powers to compel witnesses to give evidence.

The Home Office said that decision had been made because of the need to "provide assurance as swiftly as possible", and that it could be be converted to a statutory inquiry if required.

But Nick Thomas-Symonds, Labour’s shadow home secretary said: "Labour has been calling for a full independent inquiry for days, yet the Prime Minister refused to support one.

"Now the home secretary has half-heartedly announced one, but not put it on a robust, statutory footing to ensure there are no barriers in the way to getting answers.

Boris Johnson told ITV News he wants people to have "confidence" in the police but he accepted that the Couzens case has "triggered" in women a sense that the "criminal justice system does not work fast enough and the police do not take these crimes, these reports [such as the indecent exposure allegation] seriously enough".

One thing that would make a "big difference", he said, is the government's commitment to hiring more female police officers.

"I think that will have a big effect on culture but there are many, many other things that we need to do in the meantime."

Meanwhile, Dominic Raab, the new justice secretary, said his “number one priority” in the role is to make communities safer so women feel comfortable walking home feeling safe at night.