DESPITE the retro-active attempts by some police officers to distance Wayne Couzens from the badge he wore, he was a police officer when he kidnapped, raped and murdered Sarah Everard.

He abused his position of power to carry out his violence. He used his warrant card, knowledge of new police Covid powers and years of experience in the force to enact his wicked plan.

It was that grotesque abuse of power which saw Couzens jailed for a whole-life term this week.

The Metropolitan Police has serious questions to answer about the catalogue of failures that preceded the murder of Sarah Everard. Some, including Labour MP Harriet Harman, have called for Met chief Cressida Dick (below) to resign.

The National:

How did a man who had earned the nickname ‘’The Rapist’’ from his colleagues manage to escape scrutiny for so long? The warning signs, which included instances of indecent exposure, were missed.

There have been calls for a public inquiry into Sarah Everard’s death, as well as a root-and-branch review of the Met to interrogate claims that the force itself is “institutionally misogynistic”.

In recent days, it has been revealed that over the past 11 years, more than 750 Met police officers and staff have faced allegations of sexual misconduct. Of that number, only 83 were ultimately sacked.

The response from the Met to Wayne Couzens’s sentencing has been an utter shambles. It had months to put together a response yet what it came up with was ludicrous and insulting “advice” for women about flagging down a bus or knocking on a stranger’s door if they are concerned about the motives of a police officer who is attempting to arrest them.

Despite the litany of failures she has presided over, Cressida Dick (below) refuses to go.

The National: Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick speaking outside the Old Bailey in central London on Friday (July 9). Image: Ian West/PA

Sarah Everard’s family might have won justice in the courts but there has been no accountability from the force that gave Couzens the power he needed to kidnap her in the first place.

On The Andrew Marr Show yesterday, Boris Johnson refused to give his backing for a full public inquiry into the Sarah Everard case.

So, where do we go from here?

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This brutal murder captured public attention in a way that few cases which involve men’s violence against women do. The fact Wayne Couzens was a serving police officer and used that power to carry out his crimes was one of the reasons for its prominence.

But we should be wary of narrowing our focus so much that it only includes police failings and the culture of misogyny in the force.

The details are different every time a woman is raped, assaulted or murdered by a man. They are different depending on whether the perpetrator is a stranger or known to a victim. The method of violence, the occupation or status of the perpetrator, the demographic and lifestyle of the victim are different each time.

What links every instance of male violence or harassment towards women is power and control. Some violent men will use their positions of power – as a boss, as a lawmaker, as a teacher, celebrity or police officer, to aide them in their crimes.

When Harvey Weinstein’s predatory behaviour was uncovered, it sparked the worldwide #MeToo movement. Hollywood bosses were forced to confront the so-called “bad apples” within their industry and pledged to change the toxic culture that facilitated the exploitation of so many women.

When that reckoning arrived at the corridors of power, Holyrood and Westminster pledged to end the old boys’ club culture of politics and implement better procedures for reporting allegations of abuse and unacceptable conduct.

Opinions differ on how much has really changed since the #MeToo movement. I said then, and I still believe now, that it’s not enough for women to talk about their experiences of male violence – there has to be an appetite to confront and punish those that perpetrate it.

Central to that is an understanding of how all-encompassing the problem is. It’s societal-wide. It reaches beyond the doors of Met HQ, beyond Westminster, Holyrood and Hollywood.

Rather than asking women to employ new safety measures to protect themselves from lone male police officers, we should hold our politicians to account and make them keep the promises they made in the aftermath of Sarah Everard’s murder.

I think there should be a public inquiry into Sarah’s death. Her family deserves answers. But that alone won’t bring any meaningful change and it won’t help women feel safer. There’s no quick fix here. But that doesn’t mean that the age-old problem of violence against women is in any way inevitable or impossible to confront.

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To do so requires a political and societal will that has been absent up until now. It would involve a strategy that spans education, prevention and improving access to justice. It would require sustained attention from government, the police and judiciary that lasts for longer than a couple of news cycles. It would need cash. A lot of cash.

That’s the real test for our leaders. Words of condemnation flow easily in the aftermath of a preventable tragedy. It’s what they do in the weeks, months and years after that really matter.