Former officer sentenced to life in prison in Sarah Everard murder case
The former British police officer who over the summer pleaded guilty to murdering Sarah Everard in Kent, England, on Thursday was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole after the woman’s death sparked a wave of protests and calls for police reform.
While handing out the sentence, Judge Adrian Bruce Fulford said that ex-officer Wayne Couzens had “irretrievably damaged the lives of Sarah Everard’s family and friends” and “eroded the confidence that the public are entitled to have to the police force in England and Wales,” according to The New York Times.
The judge also referenced prosecutors’ statements the day before arguing that Couzens used his officer credentials to falsely arrest Everard over COVID-19 restrictions before sexually assaulting and killing her.
Fulford asserted that these actions warranted the most severe punishment possible, adding, “It is critical that every subject in this country can trust police officers,” according to The Washington Post.
The judge said Couzens’s conduct “very considerably added to the sense of insecurity that many have living in our cities, perhaps particularly women when traveling by themselves, and especially at night.”
Everard, 33, was found dead in March in the woods after she had been walking home from a friend’s house, sparking renewed concerns from other women in the country on the dangers they could face while traveling alone at night.
The Post noted Thursday that while a murder conviction in Britain carries a mandatory life sentence, it is rarely handed out without also providing the opportunity of potential parole.
However, the judge argued Thursday that the “misuse of the police officer’s role” elevated the seriousness of the case, according to the Post.
Jim Sturman, an attorney for Couzens, said in court that the former officer was “filled with self-loathing and abject shame, and he should be.”
During a hearing in the case Wednesday, prosecutor Tom Little said that Everard was “detained by fraud,” adding that Couzens used “his warrant card and handcuffs as well as his other police issue equipment to effect a false arrest.”
An eyewitness had previously said that they saw Couzens placing Everard in handcuffs.
Everard’s murder prompted British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to implement a new plan of adding additional street lighting and allowing more plainclothes officers to patrol bars to “identify predatory and suspicious offenders.”
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