'Sarah Everard should not have submitted to arrest': Police boss apologises over incendiary comments

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Undated family handout photo of Sarah Everard. (PA)
Sarah Everard was walking home when she was targeted by Wayne Couzens. (PA)

A police boss has apologised after saying women "need to be streetwise" about officers and the powers of the arrest – comments which were labelled insensitive by campaigners in the wake of the Sarah Everard case.

Wayne Couzens, who worked for the Met Police, falsely arrested 33-year-old Everard in order to kidnap, rape and murder her.

On Thursday, Couzens was sentenced to a rare whole-life order due to the fact he abused his position of authority as a police officer.

North Yorkshire Police Commissioner Philip Allott told the BBC on Friday Everard "never should have submitted" to the arrest.

A member of the public walks past the latest mural by Irish artist Emmalene Blake in Dublin's city centre. The inscription 'When will I be able to walk alone at night and feel safe?' relates to violence against women in the wake of the death of Sarah Everard. Picture date: Monday March 29, 2021.
Women's rights campaigners have been critical of the response to the Everard case. (PA)

Read more: Female and gay police were 'told to act like straight white men', says former senior cop

Conservative Allott said women should be aware breaking COVID regulations – which was the pretence Couzens used to handcuff Everard – was not an arrestable offence.

He said: "So women, first of all, need to be streetwise about when they can be arrested and when they can't be arrested. She should never have been arrested and submitted to that.

"Perhaps women need to consider in terms of the legal process, to just learn a bit about that legal process".

Allott apologised after his comments were branded offensive by women's rights campaigners.

He said: "I would like to wholeheartedly apologise for my comments on BBC radio York earlier today, which I realise have been insensitive and wish to retract them in full."

The charity EverydaySexism said in response to Allott's comments: "Just when you think the absurdity of victim-blaming could not possibly go any further, here is a police commissioner openly blaming Sarah Everard for what happened to her on BBC radio."

Lucy Arnold, from campaign group Reclaim the Streets, told the BBC: "I think frankly that was a horrifically offensive thing to say."

"Does anyone really feel like they can stand up to a police officer?

"I am very confident I know my rights, I know the law, but no I wouldn't feel confident at all."

Earlier Allott attempted to justify his remarks on Twitter saying: "Nobody is blaming the victim what I am saying is that we need to inform women far better of their rights, something I intend to action here in North Yorkshire ASAP."

Allott responded to the criticism. (Twitter)
Allott responded to the criticism. (Twitter)

Read more: Woman police officer describes being vilified for reporting misogynistic colleagues

Allott's comments are just one of several instances of members of the police commenting on the Everard cases that haven't gone down well with women's rights campaigners.

The Metropolitan Police made some suggestions on what people could do if they are approached by an officer but have concerns they are not acting legitimately, as it set out a series of measures it was taking in the wake of Ms Everard's murder.

Watch: Sarah Everard murder: Shout out to a passer-by or wave a bus down - Met issues guidance to those concerned by lone officers

It was suggested people should ask where the officer’s colleagues are; where they have come from; why they are there; and exactly why they are stopping or talking to them.

Anyone could verify the police officer by asking to hear their radio operator or asking to speak to the radio operator themselves, the force said, before suggesting those with concerns could shout out to a passer-by, run into a house, knock on a door, wave a bus down, or call 999.

In response to this, the End Violence Against Women Coalition said: "Why are women still being told to keep ourselves safe (wave at buses, challenge police)?

"Why hasn’t the conversation moved on from more police (whether patrolling/in nightclubs)? 

The Catch-up sign up
The Catch-up sign up

"We’re fed up of these absurd suggestions and want to talk about institutionalised sexism and racism."

Politicians have also waded into the row and pointed out public trust in the police has been eroded by the Everard case.

Policing minister Kit Malthouse said the case had struck a “devastating blow to the confidence that people have in police officers”, and he warned thousands of officers will need to do more so trust can be rebuilt.

Harriet Harman MP, the chairwoman of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, called for the resignation of Metropolitan police commissioner Cressida Dick over the handling of the Everard case. 

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