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Sarah killing: ‘Police must earn back trust’

Islington’s crime chief warns Met ‘need to do quite a lot of work’ after horrific murder of 33-year-old

01 October, 2021 — By Helen Chapman

Sarah Everard was murdered in March by police officer Wayne Couzens

MORE work has to be done to improve trust between women and the police, Islington’s crime chief has warned in the wake of Sarah Everard’s horrific murder.

Police officer Wayne Couzens was sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison at the Old Bailey yesterday (Thursday) after distressing details of how he committed kidnap, rape and murder in March were made public.

He had shown his police badge before handcuffing Ms Everard in south London and driving her 80 miles – later killing the 33-year-old and burning her body.

Councillor Sue Lukes, Islington’s cabinet member for community safety, said: “The Met need to do quite a lot of work there. I think they acknowledge it and need to work on it.

“There has always been trust issues between black communities and the police in Islington and there is already work going on there.

“There probably needs to be similar work done now with women. There needs to be a sit-down discussion about what we can do to encourage women to report to them and work with them if they need to.”

Increased calls for change also followed the murder of teacher Sabina Nessa, 28, who was attacked in a park in Kidbrooke last month.

Cllr Lukes said the council are encouraging businesses across the borough to sign up to a “Safe Haven” scheme as a way to help people if they are in trouble.

The council this week hosted events with opportunities for residents to find out about its Violence Reduction Strategy, laying out plans to support those most at risk.

Sessions included a meeting on Monday at Islington Assembly Hall with Cllr Lukes and Islington Police Superintendent Dominic Barnes.

Cllr Lukes said: “At a meeting this week someone said they were being followed on their way home. If a Safe Haven is on the way, they can let you stay in there whilst they call for help. We have a hundred Safe Havens in the borough.

“From following the news it looks like someone can just vanish on our streets, but in fact we know that is very rare and really unusual. So the question is, how do we get to address these issues without making people feel fearful?”

The Islington for Women group are also holding guided walks in different areas across the borough, with community officers attending, helping bridge the gap between residents and the police. The final walk starts by the Caledonian Park clock tower, Market Estate, on October 20 at 4pm.

Cllr Lukes said: “The walks are also a way of women getting familiar with the area and can also function as a way where women can tell us where they don’t feel safe.”

Zoe Billingham, one of the senior inspectors at Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour yesterday (Thursday), said Couzens had struck a “hammer blow to the heart of policing legitimacy” and that, as a woman, she herself now had “concerns and reservations” over whether she would approach a male police officer at night. Ms Billingham added: “I think this is a watershed moment for policing.”

For more information about the Violence Reduction Strategy visit https://www.islington.gov.uk/community-safet/violence-reduction-strategy

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