Women have shared their disgust at the Metropolitan Police’s new measures to help them feel safer, saying they do not trust officers anymore in the wake of Sarah Everard’s murder at the hands of a serving cop.
Today, women in Clapham Common where Wayne Couzens abducted Miss Everard during a ‘fake arrest’ slammed the new strategy which suggested those in fear of an officer should wave down a bus, run into a house or shout out to a passer by.
The guidance has been described as ‘insulting and derisory’ with critics saying it puts the onus on women rather than tackling violent men.
But speaking today, women in south London say they are now more fearful and less trustworthy of the police and believe the new measures won’t make any difference.
Lawyer and commentator David Green also warned the ‘unrealistic and misconceived’ new guidance by the Met Police could cause chaos and in extreme cases see women Tasered for resisting arrest.
The Met’s advise to flag down a bus has caused particular anger and MPs today called for an independent inquiry into the murder of Miss Everard and how the Metropolitan Police failed to root out Wayne Couzens.
Jess Phillips, Labour’s shadow minister for domestic violence and safeguarding, said the advice is ‘tone deaf’, adding she ‘would have got in the car and almost anybody would have got in the car’ and ‘the onus is on the Metropolitan Police to do better’.
Shadow cabinet member Wes Streeting said: ‘Apparently bus drivers should stop if someone is waving them down in the street away from a bus stop, just in case, because that’s a better answer than the Met getting their act together?! Utterly woeful’.
Meanwhile Met Commissioner Lord Stevens said there had been ‘extraordinary blunders’ in the run up to Sarah’s murder and the forces’ vetting system is not ‘fit for purpose’ because he slipped through the net and went go on to commit the appalling crimes.
Here, women who live near the spot where Miss Everard was stopped by Couzens in March give their thoughts on the new guidance.
Jenny Putt, 30, a nurse from Belfast who is visiting a friend in Clapham Common
‘It’s hard to say whether the government’s advice works because it hasn’t been put to the test yet.
‘Every scenario is going to be very difference and so you can’t come up with a single solution.
‘I’m from Belfast and where I’m from the police say things and then don’t necessarily do them all the time.
‘So even with this advice, it won’t stop this from happening again.
‘I think educating children when they’re young is more important. Teaching kids first aid and self-defence would be better, I think.
‘If I’ve got my headphones in and am walking home at late at night, I’ll sometimes hold my keys between my fingers.
‘But I think if someone wants to attack someone they’ll figure a way to do so.’
Gabriella Rose, 27, a web developer who lives in Clapham
‘I feel you get told a lot of that stuff anyways – it’s basic parental or school guidance.
‘But for the problem they’re trying to fix, I don’t think the advice is going to make a difference.
‘It doesn’t make women or anyone else walking around London for that matter feel any safer.
‘There needs to be actual physical measures put in place, like making sure streets are well lit at night.
‘Sarah Everard’s case is really difficult because he was a police officer.
‘I would have probably trusted him myself and most of my friends would have too.
‘It’s not only the system though, there are just some people out there who are dangerous.
‘I still trust the police because in general – 99.9 per cent of cases, they are here to help.
‘That’s why Sarah Everard put her trust in him, but then all it takes is one sick individual.
‘It’s made me wary of the police, especially if a single officer approached me in normal clothes.
‘It’s all good the police giving out this advice, but it’s common sense.
‘I think the problem is a much bigger thing. It’s a complex situation and there’s no easy answer.
‘Saying men beware and girls stop acting like this or that isn’t going to solve anything.’
Funda Gunduzalp, 31, a nursery teacher from Wandsworth
‘It’s hard because he was a police officer, so she must have trusted him.
‘Then when she realised something was wrong it was too late.
‘I think the government should limit what officers can do when they’re on their own.
‘I don’t think you will necessarily be able to follow the advice because you’re probably going to be feeling scared and worried.
‘You’re probably asking yourself what have you done wrong – especially if it’s during lockdown.
‘You could be paralysed with fear and your body just shuts down, you know.
‘So I don’t think it’s fair to put everything on women.
‘The system needs to pick up on officers who are showing early signs violence.
‘I used to trust the police, but now I feel scared.
‘I used to walk and run around the Common and Battersea park on my own. But I wouldn’t do that now.’
Megan James, 24, a civil servant who lives on Clapham Common
‘I think it’s good in theory, but it needs to be communicated more widely, otherwise it won’t work in practice.
‘I don’t know if I would feel comfortable approaching a stranger or bus driver and asking them for help.
‘Plus by the time you think of triggering those solutions – the government’s advice, it’s probably too late.
‘In the Sarah Everard case, which I’ve been followed quite closely, the officer wasn’t even in uniform.
‘I think more needs to be done – the fact she was literally arrested shows the system doesn’t work.
‘It shows some people are clearly going to abuse their position of power. I used to think of the police safety net, but now I’ve realised they are just like everyone else.
‘If I was in that position, I think I would have bowed down to that police officer quite easily – so definitely, more needs to be done to make us comfortable on the streets
‘I live in a house with three other girls and we’ve taken matters into our own hands, because you’re constantly looking over your shoulder.
‘We always carry our keys in our hand and share our locations in a WhatsApp group whenever we go out.’
Ningi Chambers, 37, a support worker from Brixton
‘I don’t think the government’s advice to wave down a bus and things like that are enough.
‘I think they should put more police officers on the streets in uniform and women should carry a rape alarm.
‘I still trust the police, they are still doing their job and at they are not all the same.
‘If they weren’t wearing their uniform and don’t have a badge you know something is wrong.’
Josie Rachell, 23, who lives in Clapham and works in green finance
‘Me and my friends were really freaked out after hearing what happened to Sarah Everard.
‘Especially because she did everything we do and it still happened.
‘I guess it’s good to have more ideas about what women can do in that situation.
‘But it’s still putting the burden on us [women] rather than men and cops.
‘If you can’t trust the police to keep you safe, then why are they even here?
‘These are all temporary things, because a much bigger cultural shift needs to happen.
‘It’s an intimidating situation and you want to trust a person who says they’re a cop.
‘It’s easy for the government to give advice but not necessarily easy for women to follow it.
‘My friends and I all share locations with each other.
‘We all bought little key chain alarms after hearing what happened to Sarah.
‘But I accidentally set mine off in the middle of the night once and nobody woke up.’
Natasha Bush, 45, who works in banking and lives in Clapham
‘Just because they’ve got a strategy doesn’t make me feel any safer.
‘I’m not going to refer to a handbook if I feel threatened – it’s ridiculous.
‘It’s obviously a step in the right direction, but what we really need is more police presence.
‘I give my five year old son the same advice, if you ever don’t feel safe you need to run to someone.
‘The problem is, it only works if you can do that, because at night there isn’t a lot of traffic or people around.
‘It almost fills me with more fear that they need to have a policy about officers being on their own.
‘Surely a better way of dealing with this would be to make sure they are always in pairs.
‘I still trust the police because you can’t villainise them based on the action of a single officer.
‘Statistics show women are more susceptible to attacks than men.
‘If I get into a cab or something, I’ll get my phone and take a photo or something.
‘If I’m walking home at night, I’ll let my husband know that I’m on the way.’
Speaking to FEMAIL women of various ages across their country revealed their safety fears in the wake of Sarah’s murder and how they can ‘no longer put their trust in someone with a uniform’.
Emma Kay, 32, London – Founder of WalkSafe app and daughter of a police officer
Emma started to experience harassment from the age of 14 as a schoolgirl and says it escalated in 20s – experiencing being ‘groped and manhandled’ despite travelling in large groups of women.
‘I’ve also been flashed at and I think it’s something as women we tend to normalise weirdly and it shouldn’t be’, she said. ‘What we have to remember with both Sabina and Sarah is that they were only walking home.’
Emma Kay, 32, London, is the co-founder of WalkSafe, an app she says ‘shouldn’t have to exist’ which helps keep women safe while walking alone
The mother, whose dad was a Met police officer, had a very positive view of the police, but was shocked to discover the news that Couzens had been a member of the force.
‘I think it’s a wake-up call to everyone, including the police, that we need to challenge attitudes,’ she said. ‘The case shows how quickly harassment can escalate and we need to take misogyny seriously on all fronts.
‘It’s also shown up what a postcode lottery it is, in that not all the police forces are aligned in their behaviour, which is a real issue. People do need consistency and to be able to tell when something is not right.
‘But mostly, I guess like all of us, I feel let down. It is even more wounding in this horrible case that there is such a breach of trust.’
She has since launched WalkSafe, an app she says ‘shouldn’t have to exist’ which tells you the most recent crimes where you live and any route you’re taking so you can avoid them.
Another feature lets you alert your safety contacts if you’re late home and a tap feature where you can alert people if your feel unsafe and gives your precise location.
‘It’s an app myself and my family came up with to protect and empower our own families, so please use it and at least your friends and family will know if you feel in danger and exactly where you are’, she said.
Toni Hargis, 60, Surrey – Author of How to Stand Up to Sexism
Toni, who wrote How to Stand Up to Sexism, says that her opinion on the police hasn’t changed after the news, and that ‘nothing shocks her’ after researching the subject for the last three years
Toni, who wrote How to Stand Up to Sexism, says that her opinion on the police hasn’t changed after the news, and that ‘nothing shocks her’ after researching the subject for the last three years.
‘From physical horrors to what’s done at work, women are still experiencing too much and there is still a lot of improvement to be made. I think the biggest eye opener for me this morning has been how much of a bubble those at the top are in.
‘Apart from continuing to put the onus on women to deal with this problem (flag down a bus???) to even thinking that buses are that frequent, is alarming and depressing.
‘It also makes it sound like the Met don’t care; they’ve had six months to figure out what to say and this sounds like it was written on the back of the proverbial fag packet.
She went on: ‘The bigger problem is the lad culture that allows men to call each other The Rapist, as a joke. Clearly Couzens must have been a sketchy character around women, but I’m willing to bet not one of his colleagues bothered to find out what had happened, how these women were or any other details.
‘We’ve all worked with someone who’s a little too handsy, and yet if women complain, we’re told “He does that with everyone” as if it’s all okay. It’s not okay.’
Saffron Rizzo, 28, west London – Runner who no longer feels safe on the streets
Saffron feels that while the Sarah Everard case has brought to light male awareness of women’s safety on the street, it’s ‘horrific’ that women now feel unable to trust police officers
Saffron feels that while the Sarah Everard case has helped men become more aware of women’s safety concerns on the street, it’s ‘horrific’ that women now feel unable to trust police officers.
‘Would I choose to walk home in the dark, no I wouldn’t? I do think there’s a sense of women being more alert, there’s things on your phone you instal and sirens and alarms and women are becoming a bit more aware.
‘I used to run at night at ten at night and I wouldn’t do that now, I used to always go for late night runs.
‘I did it a few weeks ago it was completely quiet, I wasn’t far from my house, I knew the route but I didn’t feel like I should be out running this late. You think people are looking at you like “Whats that idiot doing running out at night, she’s putting herself in danger?” which is sad.
‘It’s come out that he arrested her, it’s horrific. If you can’t trust [police officers] well then who can you trust? I’d be scared of a normal guy on a street, but would never think twice of someone in the police force or in a uniform.
‘Who do you trust? If someone arrests you, you’re going to go. You’re not going to resist. What do you say? Can you prove you’re an officer? How are we meant to question someone? How are we meant to trust them. What is in place for us to be able to say “Are you who you say you are”?’
Faye Dickinson, 28, London – Content creator who no longer trusts the police
Content creator Faye says she doesn’t feel safe walking the streets at the moment, appalled that ‘people who are in uniform who we put our trust in to protect us, they can’t even keep us safe’
Content creator Faye says she doesn’t feel safe walking the streets at the moment, appalled that ‘people who are in uniform who we put our trust in to protect us, they can’t even keep us safe’.
‘How are you likely to trust someone after this, not even a police officer, because it could be someone who could literally murder you like they did it Sarah. How can you trust people in this position?’
Faye says that she wouldn’t feel confident approaching a police officer late at night because of the situation, adding that she ‘would have felt confident before.’
‘I used to walk home at night but since the Sarah thing happened it just doesn’t agree with me to walk home I just always get a taxi from the station or something to make sure I get home safe.’
What are your rights if you are stopped by the police? Hannah Costley, solicitor in the Crime and Regulatory team at Slater Heelis tells FEMAIL the information you’re entitled to know
Stop and search
- The Officer’s name and police station they are attached to.
- They must show you their warrant card if they are in plain clothes
- Why you have been stopped
- Why they want to search you
- What they expect to find as a result of the stop and search
- The law under which they are allowed to stop and search you
- That you have the right to a written record of the search. This record must include the following information:
- Grounds for search
- Object of search
- Police officer details
Stop and account
- The Officer’s name and police station they are attached to. They must show you their warrant card if they are in plain clothes
- Reason for the encounter
- Inform you that you are entitled to a copy of the record of the encounter
- What is the difference between stop-and-search and stop-and-account?
- A stop and search takes place when a Police Officer has reasonable grounds to suspect that you may be carrying the following: illegal drugs, a weapon, stolen property or something that could be used to facilitate the commission of a crime.
- Reasonable grounds include the suspicion that serious violence could take place, you’re in a specific location or you are carrying a weapon or have used one. A stop and search cannot be based on a person’s physical appearance, previous convictions generalisations or stereotypes. A search must be carried out in a public place.
- You may be arrested following a stop and search and if so the Police must tell you that you are being arrested, what you are being arrested for, caution you, explain the necessity for arrest and tell you that you are not free to leave. (Note that S.60 Criminal Justice Act and S47A Terrorism Act searches do not require suspicion)
- The Police have no legal power to detain a person for a stop and account. A stop and account usually involves the Police asking what you are doing, why you are in the area, where you have been and where you are going. You have no obligation to co-operate and can walk away.
Can I refuse to answer police questions?
You do not have to answer any questions during either a stop and search or stop and account. Anything you do say could be later used against you. The right to silence extends to an interview under caution as stated in the first line of the Police caution “you do not have to say anything.”
Can I walk away from the police if they stop me?
Stop and search
No, if you walk away from an Officer that wishes to conduct a stop and search can detain you.
Stop and account
Yes and you cannot be searched or arrested just because you refused to engage with them.
Do I have to give my name and address to the police?
You do not have to give your name and address for either stop.
Can I film someone being arrested?
Yes. Footage of an arrest can sometimes be paramount to winning a case or evidencing a complaint against the Police. As recent as last week we made an application to dismiss the case against one of our clients on the basis that the Police’s entry into their home and subsequent arrest was unlawful. If our client had not filmed the arrest, there would have been no evidence of the Police’s actions as their body worn camera was turned off.
‘I don’t trust the cameras on the street, let alone the police anymore. I’ve seen a lot of stuff recently, there are cameras they don’t even work. With Sabina – why didn’t these cameras work? It’s scary. Why are we paying council tax, why are we paying so much money when we’re not safe in our own borough?’
She feels as though councils and police are ‘failing women’: ‘Why do they have all these cameras? They’ll send penalty charges for speeding but can’t protect women on the street.
‘I have to do it myself, just not walk on my own at night time. I make sure I get a taxi and just get home safe because I could not put my trust in to someone with a uniform after what happened to Sarah, you just can’t put your trust in those people anymore.
‘What happened with Sarah was so scary, he was in a uniform he stopped her and arrested her, it could be me it could be any one of us you never know.
‘Before the murder I was absolutely fine. I thought, “I’m safe, there’s cameras on the street the police officers are walking the streets”. But since the Sarah thing happened,you just do not feel safe.
She feels there should be ‘proof’ an officer is working for an arrest to be made, adding that ‘Sarah was vulnerable to fall in his trap it could be any one of us.’
‘I personally don’t know why he was walking around. Clearly there is not enough education within the MET, this should have been handled. ‘
Brenda Gabriel, 39, London – Former Crown Prosecution Service employee
Brenda used to work in admin in the CPS, and says that the thing that riles her the most is that Sarah was deceived under the use of Covid laws.
‘I think we’re most upset about the fact he was able to deceive her under the use of the Covid act, which is total abuse of power,’ she explained.
‘I also used to work for the CPS so I feel these things a bit deeper, i’ve seen both sides of it.
‘If she’d have known her rights – which is that nobody could stop her from walking home – she may have had an opportunity to kick up stink or for the witnesses who drove past, because they presumed she did something wrong.
‘If she’d have known that she didn’t have to stop for him, and certainly didn’t have to be arrested by him, things may have been different and that’s really upsetting.
‘Generally as a woman I don’t know any woman who feels safe alone walking home at night. You’re always kind of looking behind you and making sure someone isn’t walking behind you especially after what has happened to Sarah and Sabina.’
She believes police are exploiting the fact women don’t know their rights to abuse their power.
‘I would be worried to be anywhere were there are not a lot of witnesses, any time of day.
‘I definitely wouldn’t be stopping for any police officers, regardless of what the situation is. I would sooner continue walking if I knew there wasn’t any reason to be stopped.
‘The fact he was able to use it as an excuse when it’s not illegal and has never been illegal for anybody to walk home from anywhere or to go for exercise it wasn’t illegal to be out on the street, but the fact she thought she had done something wrong really angers me.
‘The majority of officers are there to do a good job, however there are rouge ones within it – but there is a culture of covering up the rogue ones rather and just shrugging things off.’
Becky, 39, Gloucestershire
Blogger who is too afraid to go on early morning walks or get a taxi alone
Full time blogger Becky used to love going for early morning walks alone – but now is too scared to even get in a cab by herself.
‘I loved the peace and quiet and stillness of the world before it awoke’, she said. ‘These days however, I see it very differently and haven’t been on an early morning walk alone since.
‘I live in quite a remote area in a small town so my walks would often include being in very secluded spots like woodland or unlit pavements.
‘I still go out on my bike at the same time, however this doesn’t seem as scary as in my head – I can cycle quickly away from anyone and have two front lights and a back light to keep myself as well lit as possible.
I have also downloaded an (tracking) app which I have linked to my husband so when i’m out he can see exactly where I am and it alerts him when I get home so he know’s i’m safe. I hate that I feel I need to do this but it’s just to stressful going out alone
‘How I would feel if I was stopped by a lone policeman when I was alone myself.
Before getting in to their car I would ask them to put on their body cam and get someone else to accompany us in the car. If that wasn’t possible I would want to phone someone I knew to let them know where I was going and what would be happening.
‘I’d even want to take a photo of the police officer and send it to my husband – just incase. These days I wouldn’t even get in to a taxi alone, especially at night.’
Karen Whybro, 42, Chelmsford – Campaigner who feels she was silenced by the police
Karen Whybro, 42, Chelmsford began campaigning in her local area with Chelmsford Council, Essex University and local police since Sara’s murder
Karen began campaigning in her local area with Chelmsford Council, Essex University and local police since Sara’s murder.
The campaigner, who runs her own business, attempted to hold a vigil for Sarah in September, which was ultimately shut down, an is working with her local council to create a Women’s Night Safety Charter similar to the London model.
‘I think in the days she was missing it really triggered something in all of us’, she said. ‘We knew what was going to happen and it felt like our worst nightmare coming true – especially with the details coming out now, it’s like something out of a horror film.
‘It’s a really extreme case of violence against women but also – we do all those things all the time to keep ourselves safe and it felt like she did all those things, actually none of it was enough to keep her safe, that’s why it triggered such a large outcry and anger in women, we’re sick of being told what to do and it not protecting us.
‘It’s about time we look at the causes of what’s happening rather than carrying alarms and improved street lighting it’s all part of it but it’s not tackling male violence.’
As someone who ‘never had problems with the police’, she says her attitude towards the police changed after her dealings with them following Sarah’s vigil in Clapham Common.
While her original dealings with the police were positive, she finds it worrying Covid rules were used to cancel the vigil.
‘It was the whole lockdown laws that were used which ironically we’re seeing as what he used to lure Sarah into his car’, she said, ‘What happened the next day was more worrying for me.
‘I sat at home and watched Clapham unfold which was really awful to watch as someone who tried to organise an event locally. That was horrific to watch that unfold, I really did feel sitting there watching it that I’d been silenced.
‘Because I was listed as the organiser of the event if I turned up anywhere, i’d get that £10,000 fine, it really did feel like we were being silenced. Women are being silenced again and we can’t have this say as to how angry we are.’
‘Frankly, this week I am disgusted with the Met I felt they were completely tone deaf back in March not allowing the vigil, considering it was a Met officer who had been arrested.’
Brocarde, 38, Oxfordshire – Singer who walks home with her phone hidden in her hand
Singer/songwriter Brocarde says while she’s never felt safe on the streets, Sarah’s murder has heightened her fears
Singer/songwriter Brocarde says while she’s never felt safe on the streets, Sarah’s murder has heightened her fears.
‘The Sarah Everard case really struck a chord with me as it’s so relatable and we’ve all been that woman walking home’, she said.
‘I find myself always looking over my shoulder with a heightened sense of unrest, my walking pace is insanely fast, almost a possessed power walk, as I just want to get where I’m going as quickly as humanly possible. I always have my phone hidden in my hand ready to dial incase something happens.
‘I know I shouldn’t have to feel like this but I don’t know what the answer is and how we help women feel safe and more importantly make them safe. Sadly there will be always someone with bad intensions and it’s impossible to protect yourself against someone who has evil intent.
‘It wouldn’t have been an option for Sarah to do anything differently in her situation, it wouldn’t have been an option for her to resist arrest or get away from this man as he clearly had a disturbing agenda, the suggestion that she should have or could have really irritates me as it’s victim blaming.’
She stressed that while it’s important not to judge all police officers based on the actions of one individual, there are issues that needed addressing in relation to blatant abuses of power.
‘In this case there were huge red flags against this officers character which should have been investigated thoroughly, that said we will never be able to detect every act of evil before it happens as psychopaths are experts at hiding their intentions.’