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  • Danny Shaw

The pain and suffering caused by Wayne Couzens must be a turning point


Today, Lord Justice Fulford will sentence Wayne Couzens for the kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard.


As he imposes the mandatory sentence of life imprisonment, he will set a tariff - the minimum term Couzens must serve in jail.


Thirty years, 40 years or 'whole' life....the judge will decide.


But the harrowing accounts of the impact of the police officer's wicked crimes on Sarah's parents and older sister have brought home in the starkest terms possible the reality: the prison term, however long, will never bring Sarah back or undo her family's enduring suffering and torment.


I have heard many 'victim personal statements', as they're called, delivered at the end of a court case - usually by the prosecution barrister, sometimes by the victim themselves. As a journalist, hurrying to file copy, worrying about meeting a deadline, they are a juddering reminder that at the heart of the 'story' you are fretting about are people who have experienced a grievous loss or trauma.


Many of the accounts I heard moved me, made me choke back tears. And although I was not at the Old Bailey on the first day of Couzens's sentencing hearing, the statements made in person by Susan, Jeremy and Katie Everard are among the most distressing I have come across. They were reported here, in The Times, and convey in gruesome detail the horror of what happened to Sarah and what her loved ones have been going through. I am sure there is more, much more, that they haven't spoken about.


What effect do their statements have? For me, they showed that we must get away from trite and tired slogans about tackling crime. I understand that politicians - from all parties - feel the need to make their 'offer' on crime straightforward and easy to understand. Ideas are packaged up into neat solutions: 20,000 extra police; a named officer for every victim; new neighbourhood policing teams in every area; tougher sentences for rapists and stalkers.


But Couzens's deception, depravity and brutality suggest there's a far deeper malaise that defies quick fixes. His crime has made national headlines - but it is not the only one. Every week courts across the country hear accounts of cruelty, sexual harm and extreme violence, often, but not always, inflicted by men on women - and these are just the fraction of cases that make it to court. We need to understand where such behaviour originates from; what the triggers are; and how it can be prevented.


After over 20 years specialising in crime and justice, however, it feels as though we have barely moved on. There's still a far from complete understanding of the reasons for such offending and progress in tackling it is slow and patchy. Yes, Couzens will be locked up for a long time, probably until he dies. He'll be labelled a 'monster'; there will be calls for him to hang. Inquiries into possible missed opportunities and reviews examining his police career are being conducted, with recommendations and 'lessons to be learned' no doubt to come. But before long his case will become 'old news' and we'll soon be talking about the next shocking murder.


There's a pattern of violent crime here that needs laser-like attention. The hurt and fear and anguish it causes should make it a priority. Take the politics out of it; stop the points scoring; work together; it's in all of our interests to deal with it.




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