The British Police Force Is in Crisis After Another Policeman Is Convicted
A culture of institutional violence and misogyny
Within the crime genre, there are cases where the incompetence of the police led to a killer’s reign of terror being extended. However, there are some, where the dedication of a handful of policemen led to the capture of a killer.
It is clear, like many organisations, there are members to be celebrated and members that shouldn’t. However, at present, there are more members of the British police force that raise concerning questions than in previous years.
These three cases show the good and the bad They question whether Harper’s Law is still a justifiable piece of legislation in the British justice system.
PC Andrew Harper
Newly married PC Andrew Harper was a 28-year-old with his life in front of him when he was brutally killed. Dragged behind a car for over one mile, he died of his injuries at the scene.
Three teenagers were charged with his manslaughter on 31st July. On 15th August 2019, the Thames Valley police received a 999 call reporting a burglary in process. A group of young men was attempting to steal a quad bike. Harper and fellow policeman Andrew Shaw responded to the call in their unmarked BMW.
When they arrived, a SEAT Toledo attempted to tow a quad bike away. Harper, the passenger at the time, got out and approached the car. In doing so, he caught his foot in the strap holding the quad bike. As they raced away, Harper was dragged behind them, attached to the vehicle.
The suspects later claimed they had no idea he was attached to the car. Autopsy reports would later state that Harper suffered a severe brain injury. A pathologist stated he lost consciousness as soon as his head hit the ground.
On 18th September, three men were charged with Harper’s murder. Henry Long, 18 and 17 year old, Albert Bowers and Jessie Cole.
When the judge passed sentence, he stated the boys were considered minors when they committed the crime. For this reason, he sentenced Long to sixteen years and Bower and Cole to 13 years. Ten years is the average sentence for manslaughter in the UK.
Harper’s wife started a campaign to state that attacks on emergency service workers should carry a greater punishment.
On 4th August, the Attorney General referred the case to the court of appeal. She stated the sentences were too lenient. The age of the defendants should have no consideration in the sentencing. She also backed the opinion that attacks against emergency workers should carry a severer punishment.
In 2022, Harper’s Law received Royal Assent; it stipulated that anyone who killed an emergency worker would get a mandatory life sentence. In addition, the act doubles the maximum penalty.
However, while many rejoice at the new ruling, it also questions whether this should be reversed. Should those employed to keep the law be given life in prison if they break it? Two prominent cases support this.
Sarah Everard was a thirty-three-year-old marketing executive. She was born in Surrey in 1987, grew up in York and was educated at Durham University before going to London.
On 3rd March 2021, she spent the evening at a friend’s house near Clapham. At 2100 she chose to walk the fifty minutes home to Brixton Hill. The route she took was along the South Circular, a relatively busy road. She spoke to her boyfriend for fifteen minutes and arranged to meet him the next day.
At 2128, Everard was caught on doorbell footage along the route. She was then again captured on a police car dashcam at 2132. It was the last time that she was seen alone. At 2134, Wayne Couzens approached her; he identified himself as an undercover policeman, showing her his ID badge.
It is thought he told her he was arresting her for breaking lockdown rules; it is a narrative he knew well as he had been on this team a couple of weeks before. At 2135, the pair are captured on CCTV from a bus together. Nothing else is seen of the pair.
It is known that Couzens, a forty-eight-year-old father of two from Deal, simulated an arrest of Everard handcuffing her hands behind her back and putting her into the back of a rental car he had obtained from Dover, Kent, near his home.
He had been with the Metropolitan police since 2018, having qualified as a policeman in 2002.
The morning arrived, and Everard’s boyfriend reported her missing when she failed to show up for their arranged date. On 5th March, he drove to Hoads Wood near a golf and leisure facility to hide the body. Everard had been raped and murdered.
The police followed the CCTV evidence and traced the hire car back to Couzens. Couzens had hired the rental car in his name three days before the murder. It was an abduction that he had been planning for three weeks.
On 8th June via video link, Couzens pleaded guilty to the charge of rape, abduction and murder. It was only after this that the police sacked him.
Research into Couzens’s background revealed some concerning signs that superiors had missed throughout the years. For example, he was found to have two previous allegations of indecent exposure, one in 2015 before he joined the Metropolitan Police.
Couzens was nicknamed ‘the rapist’ by his colleagues. A WhatsApp group has since been identified where five officers shared grossly offensive material. The group was said to contain homophobic, discriminatory and misogynistic messages.
However, Couzens was the first of many allegations and court cases.
Carrick is another Metropolitan police officer recently convicted of forty-nine charges of sexual abuse, including rape.
Over two decades, he raped and sexually assaulted thirteen women, in a case that brings out more questions about the sexism and misogyny in the London police force.
He admitted all charges over several court appearances. He targeted women he was in a relationship with and some he met socially. He used his job as a police officer to charm them and gain their trust.
Forcing the women to change their routines so he could control them, he referred to them as his slaves. One woman stated that he locked her in a small cupboard no bigger than a dog crate.
Carrick was arrested in 2021 when a woman reported he raped her in Hertfordshire; although she never pursued the charge, it prompted twelve women to come forward. He will be sentenced next month.
A review of his record shows he had several accusations of harassment and assault before and during his career as a policeman.
Despite his early charges, as with Couzens, he passed the vetting procedure.
A Police Force in Crisis
The Metropolitan police are quick to mention that the vetting process is more robust now and these mistakes would not be made.
However, many women’s groups quickly mention that a pattern of abuse exists within the police. It is a force in crisis as cases keep coming to light.
This isn’t just about individual bad apples; it’s about police leaders taking responsibility for transforming a culture that normalises and condones misogyny and racism and enables officers to abuse their power with impunity. - Andrea Simon
Within any institution, there are good and bad members of staff. PC Andrew Harper was one officer that took his responsibility and duty seriously. Without a doubt, he and officers like him deserve justice if killed in the line of duty.
The counterargument is that officers who abuse their power and job roles deserve the harshest sentences. It is also clear that a dynamic overhaul of the Metropolitan police needs to commence. Only after this can they grow the trust back from the public.