The Home Secretary said that ‘recent tragic events have exposed unimaginable failures in policing’.
She said that the public ‘have a right to know’ why Couzens was able to be employed by the Metropolitan Police.
Addressing the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, Ms Patel said: ‘I can confirm today, there will be an inquiry, to give the independent oversight needed, to ensure something like this can never happen again.’
The inquiry will look at Couzens’ career in the Metropolitan Police and determine if red flags were missed to identify him as a threat.
The probe is likely to be viewed as a warning shot at Met chief Cressida Dick who has faced calls to quit following the murder of Ms Everard.
Ms Patel also used her speech in Manchester to announce tough new laws to stop protesters disrupting critical national infrastructure and plans to expand drug testing on arrest.
Priti Patel today announced there will be an independent inquiry into the ‘systematic failures’ that allowed Wayne Couzens to serve as a police officer and murder Sarah Everard
Sarah Everard, 33, was murdered by policeman Wayne Couzens, 48, in London last year
Priti launches review into criminal cops and vows action against eco-mob
Priti Patel took to the Tory conference stage today to talk tough on crime.
Here are the key announcements:
- The Home Secretary revealed there will be an inquiry into ‘systematic failures’ which enabled Sarah Everard’s killer Wayne Couzens to remain a police officer after previous sex crime incidents
- She told the packed audience in Manchester: ‘I can confirm today there will be an inquiry, to give the independent oversight needed, to ensure something like this can never happen again.’
- Blocking motorways will attract tougher sentences in the wake of Insulate Britain demonstrations, attacking ‘the small minority of offenders intent on travelling around the country, causing disruption and misery across our communities’.
- Mandatory drug testing of those arrested is being expanded across all 43 police forces in England and Wales to combat addiction-fueled crime.
- On immigration she demanded France do more to tackle cross-channel arrivals.
- She said: ‘France is a safe country, one not riven by war or conflict. There is no reason why any asylum seeker should come to the United Kingdom directly from France.’
- She insisted she was working to confront the issues before adding what is happening in the Channel with small boats seeking to reach the UK is ‘unsafe, unfair and unacceptable’.
Ms Patel’s announcement of an independent inquiry came as:
- The Home Secretary told Tory members that ‘without safety and security, there can be no freedom’ and the Conservatives’ approach to crime will ‘always be based on seeking justice for victims and survivors, ensuring perpetrators feel the full force of the law’.
- Ms Patel said the Government is ‘nearly halfway’ to hitting its target of recruiting an extra 20,000 police officers.
- The Cabinet minister said the Government is successfully ‘cutting the head off the snake’ of drug gangs by ‘taking down the kingpins behind these deadly supply lines’.
- She fired a warning to France to do more to stop ‘unsafe, unfair and unacceptable’ migrant crossings across the English Channel.
Metropolitan Police firearms officer Couzens 48, was handed a whole life sentence at the Old Bailey last week for murdering Ms Everard.
Ms Everard, 33, was walking home from a friend’s house in Clapham, south London, on the evening of March 3 when she was kidnapped, raped and murdered by Couzens.
Ms Patel said: ‘This Government will always back the brave men and women of our police.
‘And it is because of our strong relationship with the police, that I can ask the difficult questions and support them to do better.
‘Recent tragic events have exposed unimaginable failures in policing. It is abhorrent that a serving police officer was able to abuse his position of power, authority and trust to commit such a horrific crime.
‘The public have a right to know what systematic failures enabled his continued employment as a police officer. We need answers as to why this was allowed to happen.
‘I can confirm today, there will be an inquiry, to give the independent oversight needed, to ensure something like this can never happen again.’
Ms Patel said that ‘all our thoughts remain with Sarah Everard’s family and friends’ as she refused to say Couzens’ name, describing him as a ‘monster’.
The inquiry will be split into two parts, with the first examining Couzens’ [revious behaviour.
It will seek to establish a ‘definitive account’ of his conduct leading up to his conviction, as well ‘any opportunities missed’.
The second part of the probe will look at ‘specific issues raised by the first part of the inquiry’.
That could include examining wider issues across policing, including vetting practices, discipline and workplace behaviour.
Ms Patel will also write to the independent police inspectorate HMICFRS to commission a ‘thematic inspection of vetting and counter-corruption procedures in policing across England and Wales’.
This will look at how forces detect and deal with misogynistic and predatory behaviour.
A chairman for the inquiry and its terms of reference will be announced by the Government in due course.
Ms Patel also used her conference speech in Manchester to vow tough new action to combat disruptive protests following a wave of action by the Insulate Britain campaign group.
She told Tory members: ‘It is because of our commitment to putting the needs of the hardworking, often silent, majority first, that I will not tolerate so called ecowarriors, trampling over our way of life and draining police resources.
‘Their actions over recent weeks have amounted to some of the most self-defeating ‘environmental’ protests this country has ever seen.
‘Freedom to protest is a fundamental right our Party will forever fight to uphold. But it must be within the law.
The Home Secretary also announced an expansion of drug testing on arrest across all 43 police forces in England and Wales
Ms Patel delivered a tough message to France to do more to stop migrant crossings as she defended the UK’s immigration reforms
Priti Patel vows crackdown on middle-class drug users
The minister said she would target wealthy users by introducing drug testing upon arrest, under a £15million plan rolled out across all 43 police forces in England and Wales.
Ms Patel said many middle-class users refuse to believe they are funding the exploitation of children in county lines gangs, and that some users even felt it was acceptable that seven-year-olds were part of these national narcotics networks.
The concept is something that already happens throughout England and Wales when people are detained for so-called ‘trigger offences’ but it appears she intends to test all arrestees.
Asked about if she thought middle-class users were too casual about their drug use, the Home Secretary said: ‘There’s no question about this, I’m sorry that I’ve seen through all our work I’m unapologetic about this.
‘The harsh reality is, and I just don’t think drug-users recognise this enough, children are being used as a pawn in that supply chain, kids as young as seven years old.
‘How can anybody think that it’s OK, through addiction, habit or recreational use, to think that that is acceptable? It is not acceptable. It is completely wrong.’
‘Measures already going through Parliament will ensure these criminals can be brought to justice for the disruption they are causing.
‘But we are going further to close down the legal loopholes exploited by these offenders.
‘So today I can announce I will also increase the maximum penalties for disrupting a motorway, criminalise interference with key infrastructure such as roads, railways and our free press and give the police and courts new powers to deal with the small minority of offenders intent on travelling around the country, causing disruption and misery across our communities.’
New measures brought forward by Ms Patel will make it an offence to repeatedly obstruct roads or cause other delays.
The Criminal Disruption Prevention Orders – dubbed ‘Asbos for crusties’ – are intended to be quicker to enforce than the Government’s current approach, which has been based on High Court injunctions.
In a separate move, a new offence will be created to make it a crime to ‘interfere with critical national infrastructure’, including major roads, railways, seaports, power stations and newspaper printing presses.
The new crime will carry up to six months’ imprisonment and will be dealt with at magistrates’ courts only.
It will give police new options when arresting offenders who block motorways or other sites, and make it more likely that protesters will face jail.
The Government has been under pressure to launch a fresh crackdown on protesters after Insulate Britain, an offshoot of the Extinction Rebellion group, blocked major roads including the M25, M1 and M4 over the past three weeks.
Three court injunctions have been put in place to stop the protests but demonstrations have continued.
The group, which is calling on the Government to insulate all homes across the UK by 2030 to help cut carbon emissions, has mostly focused on blockading the M25 but has sat down on other London roads since last Friday.
Activists from Insulate Britain caused chaos on the A40 and North Circular at Hanger Lane in West London yesterday
Boris Johnson labelled the group ‘irresponsible crusties’ this morning as he vowed to end their disruptive demonstrations.
The Home Secretary also announced an expansion of drug testing on arrest across all 43 police forces in England and Wales.
She said: ‘Those who test positive as confirmed drug users will be supported to tackle their drug abuse and regain their independence.
‘But for those unwilling to address their drug misuse, there will be the harshest possible legal sanctions and consequences.’
Ms Patel also delivered a tough message to France to do more to stop migrant crossings across the English Channel.
She said that ‘all states have a responsibility to control their borders’ because ‘where there is a door, there must be a door keeper’.
‘What is happening in the Channel with small boats is unsafe, unfair, and unacceptable,’ she told the conference.
‘From the vast camps outside Calais of mainly male, economic migrants, to the shocking images of people crammed onto flimsy boats crossing the Channel, exploited by people smugglers.
‘Vile criminals characterised by ruthlessness and greed, who even threaten to drown small children to line their pockets.
‘This cannot continue. Which is why we are going after the criminals behind this perilous trade in people smuggling.’
She said that ‘France is a safe country, one not riven by war or conflict’, adding: ‘There is no reason why any asylum seeker should come to the United Kingdom directly from France.
‘We make no apology for securing our borders and exploring all possible options to save lives by ending these horrific journeys.’