The Death of Sarah Everard was not an Isolated Incident but the Product of a Misogynist, Racist and Right-wing Police Force
There is only one solution to the Corrupt and Oppressive Metropolitan Police-ABOLITION
I was in custody in Birmingham’s Winson Green prison, when Sarah Everard was murdered. Being locked up in a cell 23 hours a day, I had little option but to watch TV footage of the case as it was developing.
My reason for having become a guest of Her Majesty (I would have preferred Balmoral!) was going equipped to cause criminal damage at Elbit’s Shenstone factory. Criminal damage to a factory that produces drones to murder children and their parents is a greater crime in the eyes of the Police than making the instruments of death that Elbit produces. This is the mentality that produces Wayne Couzens.
Indeed so serious was my offence that I was interviewed in police custody not only by an officer from Staffordshire Police but also a female sergeant from the Metropolitan Police. Clearly the death of Sarah Everard at the hands of a fellow officer wasn’t going to deter this woman from protecting those who own this factory of death.
If the murder of Sarah was not shocking enough, what followed simply compounded it. Women turning up for a vigil at Clapham Common were attacked by Police thugs who used the COVID regulations as an excuse for further violence.
Indeed, in an irony that has clearly been lost on Dick, Couzens used the very same COVID regulations to kidnap Sarah in the first place. If there had been any truth in the COVID pretext, which of course the media swallowed, then clearly the violent attack they launched could only have increased the chances of spreading the virus.
A few days after my release I spoke to a demonstration against the Police Bill of nearly 5,000 in Brighton. For all their faults Sussex Police saw no need to attack a peaceful demonstration, COVID notwithstanding.
What really happened was unpalatable to the BBC and mainstream media but is or should be obvious. After the apprehension of a police rapist and killer, Metropolitan police officers felt a sense of humiliation. So who did they take it out on? The women who were holding a vigil for Sarah and who they felt were rubbing their noses in it!
Just as the Israelis hold the Palestinians responsible for their own deaths, so in the twisted and hate filled minds of the Met, the women gathered at Clapham Common were responsible for Sarah’s death. There is a simple name for it. It’s called victim blaming.
Is it police culture that is to blame?
Whenever you have faults in an organisation the easiest thing to do is to blame the internal ‘culture’. As if it is simply a question of wrong ideas in peoples’ heads. So it is with Sara Everard.
That is why the Review of Police Culture that Cressida Dick has just announced is a sop that will, indeed cannot, change anything. There is a very simple reason for this. The political culture of an organisation reflects what that organisation does, how it works, how it sees those it works with and its relationship with those it allegedly serves.
So if you want to change the culture you have to change the Metropolitan Police itself and its priorities. Since that is not what Dick wants to do then what is being proposed is merely window dressing. Or literally putting lipstick on a pig. This is leaving aside the refusal/inability of the Met to investigate itself.
A change in police culture used to be the response to accusations of police racism. After the 1981 riots and the Scarman Inquiry the police began ‘racism awareness’ courses whose only effect was to arm the police with a new language in order to justify their continuing racism. It helped them to better deal with and know their enemy. It is the language of PR. It was of course helped along with large sums of public money as anti-racism was incorporated into the voluntary sector.
The history of racist policing and attacks on the Black community by the Metropolitan Police is all too well documented. See for example In the Shadow of the SPG: Racist Policing, Resistance & Black Power in 1970s Brixton and The Brixton riots 40 years on: ‘A watershed moment for race relations’. Racism, like misogyny is an integral part of police ‘culture’. See the documentary Injustice on Black Deaths in Custody. For much of its history the Metropolitan Police and the Special Patrol Group operated akin to an occupying force in areas of London like Brixton and Notting Hill.
Wayne Couzens and a Misogynist Culture
One thing is very clear about the murder of Sarah Everard. This was no aberration. Wayne Couzens, Sarah’s murderer, did not stick out as a sore thumb in the Met. He wasn’t a loner or some kind of oddball who didn’t fit in. The problem was that he fitted in all too well. He was even given what, to his comrades in the Civil Nuclear Constabulary must have been an extremely witty nickname, ‘the rapist’. That must have produced many a laugh. He apparently made women feel uncomfortable. However that did not make Couzens unsuitable in the eyes of his fellow policemen. Quite the contrary. They conspired to protect him.
It transpires that Couzens had exposed his penis in public, not once but three times and each time his fellow officers covered for him. After all they were all lads together and this was simply the product of ‘locker room’ talk. The latest incident was just 72 hours before Sarah’s kidnapping. If his behaviour had been taken seriously and he had been arrested and had his warrant card taken from him, along with his handcuffs, then Sarah would be alive today.
The details of his vehicle were recorded. He was, as they say, bang to rights, except that the Police don’t inform on their own unless circumstances force them to.
Police Corruption and Operation Countryman
There have been so many instances of this refusal to inform on their own that it is tiresome to give examples. From Operation Countryman, an inquiry into police corruption that was sabotaged by a combination of senior officers of the Metropolitan Police, including Commissioner Sir David McNee, to the murder of Blair Peach. After Operation Countryman was wound up, with just 2 police officers gaoled, corruption resurfaced on an even bigger scale.
The Metropolitan Police, and indeed all Police forces, are instruments of the state, coercive bodies who, whatever pretensions they make to serving the public, are there to keep the Queen’s Peace. At the end of the day they are a body of violent men (& women). Their primary function is to ensure the maintenance of the existing economic and political order. That is why a certain level of police corruption is tolerated at the highest political level. They operate in a political system which itself has corruption at its heart. Under Boris Johnson this has reached new heights.
In the BBC documentary (which the BBC banned, later shown by Granada’s World in Action) on Operation Countryman, we see how Margaret Thatcher (26:06) used the death of 6 Police Officers to excuse Police corruption.
Nor has the Met’s corruption gone away. Indeed it has flourished under Cressida Dick, who it may be recalled, was the officer responsible for overseeing the police murder of Charles Menendez in 2007.
In June the Metropolitan Police were branded ‘institutionally corrupt’ by an independent inquiry set up to review the murder of private detective Daniel Morgan. Cressida Dick herself was personally censured for obstruction. In 2011 the Met accepted that corrupt detectives shielded the killers yet Dick, then an Assistant Commissioner and her successors continued to obstruct the Inquiry. The Chair of the Inquiry Lady O’Loan stated that:
“We believe the Metropolitan police’s first objective was to protect itself. In so doing it compounded the suffering and trauma of the family.”
Despite these findings Home Secretary Priti Patel and London Mayor Sadiq Khan expressed their confidence in Dick. What possible purpose is there in setting up inquiries if their findings are rejected? Boris Johnson had already rejected the results of an Inquiry that found Priti Patel guilty of bullying so the chances of an internal inquiry into Police Culture coming up with anything other than palliatives is zero.
But what has the reaction of the Labour Party been? In the week when Wayne Couzens was sentenced to life imprisonment, Starmer’s aides thought it a good idea to form Labour Friends of the Police! No one can accuse Starmer of lacking a sense of timing!
Of course the Police are only the most visible face of the system’s racism and sexism. In a capitalist society the law will always be concerned with protecting property not people.
It was Lord Denning, former Master of the Rolls, who explained in Southwark LBC v Williams  the perils of allowing need to trump property:
“… if hunger were once allowed to be an excuse for stealing, it would open a door through which all kinds of lawlessness and disorder would pass… . If homelessness were once admitted as a defence to trespass, no one’s house could be safe. Necessity would open a door which no man could shut.”
Edmund-Davies LJ explained what judges fear was:
“[T]he law regards with deepest suspicion any remedies of self-help, and permits those remedies to be resorted to only in very special circumstances. The reason for such circumspection is clear – necessity can very easily become simply a mask for anarchy.”
Unless the model of policing represented by the Metropolitan Police is fundamentally changed then racism, misogyny and corruption will always be part of the ‘service’ that is offered. Without defunding the Met as it exists and the creation of a police force that is controlled by those it allegedly serves, then the present corrupt and coercive policing will continue indefinitely. As long as the Police force is an external force imposed from above it can never be reformed.
A Rape Culture
Fewer than one in 60 rape cases last year resulted in a suspect being charged. While there were 52,210 rapes recorded in England and Wales in 2020, only 843 resulted in a charge or summons – a rate of 1.6% (the BBC’s figure is 1.4%). And a substantial proportion of these resulted in acquittal. Rape has effectively been decriminalised. In 2018 only 3.8 per cent of sexual offences resulted in a charge or summons, down from 5.6 per cent the previous year.
Those with long memories may remember a BBC documentary in 1982 which recorded an interview by two hostile detectives of a rape victim. It caused outrage and promises of a change in police ‘culture’. For 20 years, ever since I was a law student, we have been told how the Police are ‘changing’. Everything changes but everything remains the same!
The head of my postgraduate law course at Sussex was Jennifer Temkin, the foremost expert on the law of rape. In 2005 she was bemoaning why it was that ‘only 5.6% of British women who take their complaint to the police see their assailant convicted.’ And of the cases that did go before a judge and jury there was a conviction rate of just over 20%. Today it is less than a third of that despite all the promises to the contrary by the Police. Why? See Beware of barristers
Obviously one reason is that rape is not a priority for either the Police or the Crown Prosecution Service. A police force whose priority is property will never prioritise vulnerable people, be they children suffering abuse or women victims of rape and domestic violence.
The Police tell us that they don’t have the resources. It is strange that the Met and other forces can muster hundreds of officers for an animal rights march, Extinction Rebellion or protests against the Police Bill but when it comes to offences against the person there are never enough resources. They can send a Met officer up to Staffordshire to interview me but they can’t investigate rape in Brixton where she is based.
Class also plays a large part. I remember arguing with Temkin about this. Not only because more affluent women don’t need to use public transport but because middle class women are more likely to get the police to take their complaints seriously compared to working class women who are considered sluts who are ‘asking for it’.
That is why the theory of ‘patriarchy’ falls down. Having a woman as head of the Met has arguably made the situation worse not better. It assumes that women behave differently from men in positions of power. It is the same with having Black police officers. The experience in the United States shows that Black officers are equally complicit in the racist treatment of Black people. In Baltimore in 2015, 3 of the 6 Police murderers of Freddie Gray, who died in shocking circumstances, were Black.
My own experience police obstruction and worse was when a 15 year old daughter of a friend was raped in her home and the Police refused to believe her. When I insisted on an interview with the Police officers concerned alongside her mother, the Police threatened to charge the mother with wasting police time!
To make matters worse the Police then submitted an adverse report in response to a claim to the Criminal Injuries Board for compensation. It was only after getting expert medical advice that I was able to overturn the original decision on appeal. The police however never reinvestigated the case.
Leaving aside the fact that an officer from Wayne Couzen’s unit has now been charged with rape (and of course we will assume he is innocent until proven guilty) it is a fact that the Special Demonstration Squad, which specialised in infiltrating left-wing and radical protest groups, never penetrated far-right groups. The SDS specialised in rape by deception, a practice tolerated for decades by senior officers. And this is leaving aside the 26 cases of sexual offences by officers in the past 5 years that we know about.
The reason for this is that the Police are an overwhelmingly right-wing body. How else can one explain the passing of information by the Special Branch to a blacklisting operation, the Consulting Association? This practice was ruled as unlawful in 2009 by the Information Commissioner as a clear breach of the Data Protection Act. Did that stop the Police from passing information? Of course not. Given the secrecy with which the Police operate, in particular Special Branch, one must assume that this practice continues today.
That is why the decision of Starmer and the Labour right-wing to form a Labour Friends of the Police is so contemptible. The Police are not our friends. They are the friends of big business and the wealthy. Those with property. They are our enemy. Of course that does not mean that all individual police are right-wing, racists or sexists. The barrel may be full of rotten apples but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t contain some uncontaminated fruit.
Incidentally the proposal to disband the Met and integrate it into neighbouring police forces was a recommendation of Operation Countryman, which was headed by the Chief Constable of Dorset Police. It is hardly a radical proposal.