By: Pramod Thomas
A former UK policeman jailed for life for murder was sentenced to an additional 19 months in prison on Monday (6) for indecent exposure, raising questions about whether he could have been stopped sooner.
Wayne Couzens, 50, is already serving a rare whole-life sentence for the kidnap, rape and murder of London woman Sarah Everard after he snatched her off the streets in March 2021.
London’s Metropolitan Police apologised after the sentencing for not picking up on the indecent exposure offences before Everard’s murder.
“Like so many, I wish he had been arrested for these offences before he went on to kidnap, rape and murder Sarah Everard and I am sorry that he wasn’t,” The Met’s deputy assistant commissioner Stuart Cundy said.
Couzens admitted to indecently exposing himself to other women, in November 2020 and February 2021, and betrayed no emotion as he appeared for his sentencing in London’s Old Bailey criminal court via video-link from jail.
“Four months after you exposed yourself to me, you raped and murdered an innocent woman,” one of his victims, a female cyclist, said in a statement to the court.
“There were opportunities to identify you and they were not taken. I did not feel that, when I reported your crime, it was taken as seriously as I felt that it should have been,” she said.
“The horror of what happened will remain with me for the rest of my life.”
The cyclist was unable to confirm to police the registration number of Couzens’ car after he stood and exposed himself to her on a country lane in Kent, southeast England.
But the car’s details were captured fully on CCTV camera when he again exposed himself to female employees of a fast food restaurant, in the fortnight before he attacked Everard.
Getting away with his sexual assaults had only fuelled “a dangerous belief in his invincibility”, judge Juliet May said in her sentencing.
Another victim wept in court as she described feelings of “survivor’s guilt”.
“I could not help but feel relieved that it wasn’t me, or that it could have been me,” she said.
She said she had difficulty trusting the police after Everard’s murder.
“I do not like to tar everyone with the same brush but it has been difficult not to do so after knowing what he did for a living and knowing I could have come across him in uniform and not known what he was capable of,” she said.
Cundy added that the sentence reflected the impact the “awful crimes” committed by Couzens had on the women he targeted.
“The fact he did this whilst serving as a police officer has brought shame on all (of) us who swore to protect the communities we serve,” Cundy said.
He said the “hurt and trauma” Couzens had inflicted was clear from his victims’ impact statements.
“It is their courage that has been crucial in bringing him to justice and I am sorry for what they have gone through,” he added.
Since the killing of Everard, other shocking cases involving London police officers have come to light.
David Carrick was jailed for life a month ago, with a minimum term of more than 30 years, for dozens of rapes and sexual assaults stretching back to 2002.
Carrick and Couzens served at one point in the same armed unit protecting MPs and foreign diplomats.
The government has commissioned an independent inquiry to look into how the officers escaped detection, and London’s Metropolitan Police force is pursuing a crackdown in its ranks.