Fresh fears for women’s safety in UK

Monday October 11 2021
UK PIC

A group of women demonstrate against the sexual harassment of women in front of the National Assembly in Paris, France (Photo: Getty/AFP/Dominique Faget)

By Gerry Loughran

A woman is murdered by a man every three days in Britain – a shocking statistic. Worse is that the latest victim was abducted, raped and killed by a serving policeman.

The murder of Sarah Everard, a marketing executive, aged 33, has stunned the nation.

It was 9.30 pm and Sarah was walking home alone along a well-lighted street in Clapham, south London, after visiting a friend.

Police Constable Wayne Couzens stopped her, showed his warrant card and, claiming she had broken Covid lockdown rules, made a fake arrest.

Locking the doors of his hired Vauxhall car, he drove 80 miles to a secluded woodland, where he raped his victim, then strangled her with his police belt.

Couzens was arrested six days later after police trawled through 1,800 hours of CCTV footage, and on September 30, he was sentenced to a whole-life prison term, meaning he will never be released.

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He refused to look at the judge or Sarah’s parents during the trial but shook visibly when he was sentenced.

The case has raised two major issues – the behaviour of the police, in particular the Metropolitan force which operates in London, and the security and protection of women.

Apparently, Couzens, 48, married with two children, was known jokingly among fellow policemen as “The Rapist” and routinely placed racist and misogynistic messages online. He had also been reported twice for indecent exposure, which the force’s vetting procedures had missed.

In the past five years, 26 Metropolitan Police officers have been convicted of sex crimes, according to a newspaper investigation, while police offences nationwide included rape, child pornography and voyeurism.

Last week, an officer from the same unit as Couzens was charged with rape.

And there is a crucial issue. Only 1.6 per cent of rape charges in the UK result in a conviction, while the long delays in bringing cases to court deter many women from complaining.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson tried to quell the nation’s anger by protesting that the overwhelming majority of policemen are trustworthy, while acknowledging problems in the criminal justice system regarding violence against women.

“There is an endemic difficulty in getting the system to deal with complaints fast enough and to take them seriously enough,” he conceded.

But he said the government was making massive investments to ensure that “women know that their reporting of rape and sexual and domestic violence is going to be properly taken care of”.

Councils across the country are increasing expenditure on such safety measures as CCTV cameras and improved lighting in parks, on quiet streets and on public transport, body cameras for transport workers, the introduction of safety volunteers and the formation of all-women groups to judge the efficacy of the new measures.

These are all positive steps, but, sadly, this is now a country where many women say they will never trust a policeman again.

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British people like their traditions and few events are more traditional than Songs of Praise, a Sunday evening BBC TV programme of Christian worship, which has just celebrated 60 years on air.

Nearly 3,000 episodes of the world’s longest-running religious TV programme have gone out since the first transmission from a small church in Cardiff in 1961. That service was an overnight sensation, attracting 12 million viewers. Even today, despite evidence of growing secularisation, Songs of Praise attracts audiences of more than a million each week.

Among the programme’s fans is the Queen, herself. When the 60th anniversary show took place at Westminster Abbey last Sunday, a prerecorded message from the head of state applauded the series for showing Christianity as “a living faith”.

The format of Songs of Praise has changed little over the years, broadcasting week by week from cathedrals, churches and chapels across the country, the focus invariably being on congregational hymn-singing, in other words, belting out the old favourites.

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One item you can never escape in the British armed forces, army, navy or air force, is the Annual Personnel Report.

Inescapably, once a year, officers report on other ranks while officers with lots of ribbons report on those with fewer.

Here are quotations from some of those reports:

-- This officer is like a little puppy – he scampers round excitedly, leaving little messes for other people to clean up.

-- He would be out of his depth in a car park puddle.

-- This man should go far and the sooner he sets off the better.

-- In my opinion, this pilot should not be allowed to fly below 250 feet.

-- The only ship I would recommend for this man is citizenship.

-- Since my last report, he has reached rock bottom and has started to dig.

-- His men will follow him anywhere, if only out of curiosity.

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More silly word play:

Q: What’s the difference between ignorance and apathy?

A: I don’t know and I don’t care.