Sarah Everard’s killer, Wayne Cousins, sentenced to life in prison

LONDON – Britain’s top criminal court has sentenced the police officer who kidnapped, raped and murdered Sarah Everard – a case that has sparked a wave of criticism of the police and calls for reform of the way officers deal with violence against women – to life imprisonment by a British criminal court. .

The ruling was announced a day after prosecutors detailed how Officer Wayne Cousins ​​abused his power, and under the guise of coronavirus restrictions during the national lockdown in March, She tricked Mrs. Everard into thinking she was under arrest.

Judge Adrian Bruce Fulford, in explaining why Mr Cousins ​​is ineligible for parole, said he had “irreparably damaged the lives of Sarah Everard’s family and friends” and “undermined confidence that the public was entitled to a police force in England and Wales”.

The judge said his “abuse of the police officer’s role” – his use of his official police credentials, equipment and training to carry out the crime, according to the prosecution – justified the maximum possible punishment.

He said that the degree of preparedness and the length of time during which Mr. Cousins ​​planned the attack, as well as the brutality he had shown, were also taken into account in the ruling.

Judges in Britain are usually required to hand out life sentences to people convicted of murder, but those sentenced to life imprisonment rarely spend their entire sentence behind bars.

However, there is an exception in more serious murder cases, when the judge issues a “life order,” as was the case for Mr. Cousins. In this case, the offender must remain in prison for life without any possibility of early release.

Attorney General Tom Little detailed the case against Mr Cousins ​​at London’s Central Criminal Court this week, revealing shocking new details about the murder of Mrs Everard, the 33-year-old whose death inspired national calls for better protection for women. Those present, including Mrs. Everard’s family, heard how Mr Cousins ​​went “in search of a lonely young woman for kidnapping and rape”.

Mr Cousins ​​then confronted Ms Everard as she was on her way home from a friend’s house and made a “spurious arrest” for getting her into his car, the attorney general said.

Mr Cousins, who was an officer in diplomatic protection with the Metropolitan Police, presented a police ID to Ms. Everard and handcuffed her before taking her out of town, raping and eventually killing her and setting her body on fire. Little said.

Her remains were discovered seven days later in a wooded area of ​​Kent, about 80 miles from London. Judge Fulford pondered Ms Everard’s possible mental state during the trip and said what she had to endure was “as dismal and distressing as can be imagined”.

When Mr Cousins’ lawyer spoke on behalf of his client on Thursday, he said his client did not contest any of the facts set by the prosecution but argued against the possibility of a life sentence, citing his guilty plea among other factors.

Details of Mr. Cousins’ calculated attack and his abuse of power as a police officer shocked rights activists and lawmakers who lobbied for reform of the approach to monitoring violence against women.

On Wednesday, before the sentencing hearing began, the Metropolitan Police acknowledged in a statement that Mr Cousins’ actions “raise many concerns”.

“Police officers in London are absolutely disgusted and sick that what was a fellow service member could have committed such a heinous crime,” the Metropolitan Police Association, a union of employees representing the London police, said in a statement.

After the death of Mrs. Everard, the government ordered it a report From an independent monitoring group to review the police response to violence against women and girls in England and Wales. The report, released this month, called for drastic changes across the entire system in dealing with these cases.

Zoe Bellingham, an inspector for Her Majesty’s Inspector of Police and Fire and Rescue Services, the monitoring group, told BBC Woman’s Hour on Thursday that Mr Couzens’ actions “have struck a hammer at the heart of police legitimacy”.

“We can’t dismiss Wayne Cousins ​​as a one-time event, as a rarity, as an aberration,” she told the BBC. “We should see every police force in England and Wales now stepping forward to tell their communities specifically what they are doing to ensure the safety of women.”

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