Victims' commissioner's attack on police's 'male brotherhood culture'

‘Why are you STILL not policing violence against women properly?’: Victims’ commissioner unleashes withering attack on police’s ‘male brotherhood culture’ for letting down violent and sex crime victims

  • Vera Baird mentioned Wayne Couzens, the PC who murdered Sarah Everard
  • Colleagues knew he liked violent porn and he had a history of exposing himself
  • She said Couzens was ‘known affectionately as rapist to his pals, but nobody did much about it’
  • ‘Why are you still not policing violence against women and girls properly?’, she asked officers at the National Police Chiefs’ Council conference in London

‘Sexist’ police are putting ‘male brotherhood’ above the protection of women and girls from sexual and physical violence, the Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales declared today, as she confronted officers at their annual conference.

Dame Vera Baird QC’s fiery speech cited Britain’s most hated policeman Wayne Couzens, who used his position to abduct, rape and kill Sarah Everard in a case that sparked protests on the streets and shattered trust in the Met.

Calling out the colleagues who may have been aware he had exposed himself and knew he liked violent porn before the murder, Dame Vera said Couzens was ‘flashing a few weeks before, known affectionately as rapist to his pals, but nobody did much about it’.

The Victims’ Commissioner also claimed police forces are ‘overwhelmingly male’ and that the public won’t have any faith in them until they root out criminals in their own ranks, citing a new survey showing just one in three women still trust the police after Couzens’ appalling crimes.

In an impassioned plea to the London audience, which included seniors officers from across the UK and the Tory Policing Minister, she asked: ‘Are we living in a civilised and well policed country? Why are you still not policing violence against women and girls properly?.

‘May it be because you’re blaming the victims of it for crimes committed against them through some undertone of sexism either born or encouraged by the essentially male brotherhood culture in policing? Does being a police officer make you a worse sexist than the ordinary man in the street? 

‘You can change the culture’, she told delegates, adding: ‘I hope to see police as modern men proudly leading the fight against sexist culture, speaking out like the bystander project volunteers.’


Dame Vera Baird QC confronted police at their annual conference today and the public had lost confidence in their ability to protect women after the murder of Sarah Everard, blaming a sexist culture and ‘male brotherhood’ in forces

The Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales said that until police rooted out their own criminals, such as beast Couzens, the public will not trust them

A new Met Police policy on handcuffing sparked by complaints black communities were being targeted excessively expects officers to ask themselves 44 questions.

The mammoth decision process is laid out in full in the new 25-page document published by Scotland Yard.

It puts into official policy nearly 50 questions officers should consider when they are using the police-issue restraints.

They include ‘Consider the ethics, any research evidence, What is happening?’ as well as ‘What do I not know?’.

There is also advice to mull over  ‘Could I explain my action or decision in public?’ and ‘What would the victim or community affected expect of me in this situation?’ 

Most are from the College of Policing’s National Decision Model but are now enshrined in the official equipment policy. 

Also featured is an alphabet themed guide to handcuffing that warns to ‘Always ask the suspect if the cuffs are too tight’.

It includes the advice to ‘always double-lock the handcuffs’. 

Posing questions to the audience to ask themselves, she said: ‘After 30 reports and 30 years of women’s voices roused against violence against women and girls, why are you still not policing it properly? 

‘And if so, don’t you owe it to the public to see that and to change culture around by 180 degrees and start to lead us out of this epidemic of violence against women and girls?’

When later asked if he would agree with the description of a male brotherhood culture in policing, National Police Chiefs’ Council chairman Martin Hewitt told reporters: ‘No, I wouldn’t agree with that terminology’, later adding: ‘I wouldn’t accept that definition.’

He said: ‘I can understand why that line gets used when you look at the organisation, but I don’t accept it as a characterisation.’

To ‘subscribe one culture’ to all forces across the country ‘I think is not really very sensible’, he said, adding: ‘So, the key for me is we must be challenging any culture that is not inclusive in any part of policing, and calling that out, and then, as leaders in policing, dealing with those issues appropriately…’

But he had previously told delegates: ‘We must be honest with ourselves that misogynistic attitudes and behaviours that exist in society exist in policing too.

‘And it matters more in policing because of the powers that we hold and because our legitimacy is built on trust and confidence.

‘We need to promote, protect and nurture the right culture in policing. All of us need to reflect on how we as individuals demand and support a culture that is inclusive for both our own staff, but also for the people we serve. And we must be more open, more alert to, and more challenging of, behaviour or actions that undermine that culture.’  


Nicole Smallman, 27, and Bibaa Henry, 46, who were stabbed to death in Wembley last year. Officers guarding the crime scene were caught taking selfies with their bodies

In March this year, the Met was criticised over its ‘heavy-handed’ policing of a vigil for murdered Sarah Everard at Clapham Common. But its tactics were later cleared by a watchdog. Pictured, campaigner Patsy Stevenson being arrested at the event.

Met Police chief Dame Cressida Dick’s dossier of shame: From force believing a sex abuse fantasist to officers sharing dead bodies pictures

In July 2005, Dame Cressida Dick was in charge of the operation which saw innocent electrician Jean Charles de Menezes shot dead on a Tube train after he was mistaken for a terrorist who was under surveillance. Pictured, a memorial to mark ten years since Mr de Menezes’ death.

In 2014, she sanctioned the creation of Operation Midland, the disastrous investigation into spurious VIP child sex abuse allegations that saw innocent men pursued by the force. Pictured, fantasist Carl Beech, whose false sex abuse claims were believed by police.

In 2019, Dame Cressida’s force was widely criticised for its ‘light-touch’ policing of Extinction Rebellion protests, which blocked several key areas of London. Picture, Oxford Street in April 2019 as the campaigners paralysed the capital.

In June, she was accused of ‘obfuscation’ for thwarting the Daniel Morgan inquiry team’s attempts to access sensitive documents, leading to delays that cost the taxpayer millions. The report found that her force was ‘institutionally corrupt’. Pictured, Mr Morgan.

 Dame Cressida also faced criticism over July’s security shambles which saw ticketless fans storm Wembley Stadium before the England-Italy Euros final. Pictured, fans outside the venue.

Last month she apologised after a report by the IOPC found the level of services provided over the weekend when Bibaa Henry, 46, and Nicole Smallman, 27, went missing fell below standards. It was their family and friends who found their bodies before police, who bungled the search handover. Pictured, the two sisters.

Mr Hewitt earlier said the relationship forces have with the public is ‘under strain’, adding it was ‘most acutely under strain in our relationship with black people and women’.

He told a crime summit in Westminster it is a ‘defining moment for policing, people will look back at how we responded, but, more importantly, people are looking at us right now’.

His comments came as a survey suggested fewer women trust the police since off-duty Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens murdered Sarah Everard.

Although confidence in policing remained ‘largely steady’ during the coronavirus pandemic, Mr Hewitt told delegates: ‘I think we would all agree that we’re now operating against the backdrop of an altogether different public mood.

‘The legitimacy and effectiveness of UK policing is built on our relationship with the public. It’s the most important relationship we have and it is under strain, and it’s most acutely under strain in our relationship with black people and women.’

Describing the ‘long-standing and well-documented challenges’ in the relationship between police and black people as remaining ‘deeply concerning’, he said there was also a ‘deeply felt and long-standing concern with women, that the criminal justice system does not protect them, or bring them justice when they experience violent and sexual crimes that have a devastating impact on their lives’.

Explaining how the killings of Ms Everard, sisters Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman, and Sabina Nessa brought concern and desire for change ‘into sharp focus’, he added: ‘Far too many women are asking themselves if the police are on their side in tackling violence against them. And if they can trust us to help them.’

Couzens will spend the rest of his life behind bars after he abducted, raped and murdered 33-year-old Ms Everard near Clapham Common in south London in March.

The atrocity triggered a widespread public outcry, prompted a Government crackdown on sexual harassment as part of its strategy to tackle violence against women and girls and saw Home Secretary Priti Patel promise a ‘thorough review’ of police vetting.

Mr Hewitt said: ‘The weekend following the sentencing of Sarah Everard’s murderer – as I took in what that meant for policing – from a personal point was one of the lowest points in all the years of my service.’

He added that the service ‘can’t claim to police by consent if any community or any section of society doesn’t trust us and doesn’t believe in what we’re doing.

‘So, I believe that this is a defining moment for policing, people will look back at how we responded, but, more importantly, people are looking at us right now.’

Almost half of women trust the police less since off-duty officer Wayne Couzens murdered Sarah Everard, a survey has suggested.

A poll of 1,699 adults by YouGov, on behalf of the End Violence Against Women (EVAW) coalition, found 47% of women and 40% of men polled said trust in the police has decreased since the details of Couzens’ crimes were made public in court.

Nearly one in three women (29%) said they continue to trust the police despite Couzens’ actions.

Couzens will spend the rest of his life behind bars after he abducted, raped and murdered 33-year-old Ms Everard near Clapham Common in south London in March while serving as an officer in the Metropolitan Police.

The atrocity triggered a widespread public outcry, prompted a Government crackdown on sexual harassment as part of its strategy to tackle violence against women and girls, and caused Home Secretary Priti Patel to promise a ‘thorough review’ of police vetting.

The poll also suggested three quarters of women (76%) said they felt the culture of policing has to change in order to better respond to violence against women and girls.

Andrea Simon, EVAW director, said: ‘The police and Government response to legitimate public outpourings of anger and distress about police failings have fundamentally missed the mark.

‘We are yet to see any commitment and accountability for the meaningful internal work needed to shift the institutional cultures and practices that excuse and enable this harmful behaviour – instead we have seen superficial and unevidenced measures announced that feel like a PR exercise.’

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