Sarah Everard murder: I would have got into Couzens' car, says MP Jess Phillips

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Media caption,
Jess Phillips: Cressida Dick and Priti Patel's "sorrow" will not stop the death of another woman by a man today

Labour's Jess Phillips says the onus can't be on women to change their behaviour, after the murder of Sarah Everard by an off-duty police officer.

She said she would have got into Wayne Couzens' car - "almost anybody would" - and more action was needed to restore trust in the police.

Couzens showed a warrant card as he kidnapped Ms Everard.

The Met Police has advised anyone stopped by a lone plain clothes officer to check their credentials.

The force says people detained in this way should ask "where are your colleagues" and "where have you come from?"

It suggested other "very searching questions", including "why are you here" and "exactly why are you stopping or talking to me?"

The Met also advised that if someone believes they are in "real and imminent danger" they "must seek assistance - shouting out to a passer-by, running into a house, knocking on a door, waving a bus down or if you are in the position to do so calling 999".

'Tone deaf'

And the force said that, to verify the answers, people should ask to speak to an operator on a police radio.

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Policing minister Kit Malthouse says if in doubt "ask the police officer to identify themselves"

Jess Phillips, Labour's shadow minister for domestic violence and safeguarding, said she could "sympathise with the Met - what else could they say?".

But she described their advice as "tone deaf".

"I could scream about the amount of things women are told to do," she told the BBC, adding that Ms Everard was "keeping herself completely safe, doing exactly what any woman would do".

Ms Phillips - who ran domestic abuse refuges before becoming an MP - said she knows her rights "better than most people" but even she "would have got in the car and almost anybody would have got in the car".

"The onus is on the Metropolitan Police to do better," she added.

Debbie Summers from Sisters Uncut - a group which campaigns for women's safety - described the police advice as "nonsense".

"Asking for his police ID would have made no difference in this case as Wayne Couzens was a serving officer - that would have been no defence to her at all," she said.

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Image caption,
Sarah Everard was kidnapped, raped and murdered by police officer Wayne Couzens

Ms Phillips said the only way confidence will be restored is "if we see the government and police forces starting to actually take violence against women and girls, and the complaints that women make day in, day out, seriously".

"This is a conversation where women have been saying for some time, even before the death of Sarah Everard, that they don't feel that they are trusted by the police when they speak up or that violence and crime against them is prioritised."

Asked if Met Police Commissioner should resign, she said "getting rid of Cressida Dick is not going to help the fundamental and systemic problem".

"I want to hear more from Cressida Dick than 'we will work together, we will learn lessons' - honestly a five-year-old could come up with it."

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the police needed to provide clear communication, adding; "That is not about telling women to change their behaviour, but how the police are going to change what they're doing to reassure women."

He also backed calls for an independent inquiry, saying the sooner it happened the better.

Policing minister, Kit Malthouse, has acknowledged police forces will have to work "much harder" to win back public trust.

'Widespread sexism'

He told Radio 4's Today that Wayne Couzens' crimes have dealt a "devastating blow" to public confidence in the police and it would take months and years to rebuild it.

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
Wayne Couzens (right) is believed to have shown Sarah Everard his police warrant card

"It's hard to underestimate the impact of this tragic, awful case," he said.

Mr Malthouse said "sadly" the Met had had to issue advice to women approached by police - and that it was "perfectly reasonable" they make enquiries and seek verification.

And he insisted there was a "suite of things" being done by ministers to tackle the issue of violence against women.

Conservative MP and chair of the Justice Committee Sir Bob Neill suggested making misogyny a hate crime could be one solution.

Where a crime is proven to be due to the victim's race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or transgender identity, it is considered a hate crime - and can therefore attract a greater punishment.

Campaigners in England and Wales have argued that sex and gender should be added to this list of characteristics that make an offence a hate crime.

Sir Bob's call was echoed by London Mayor Sadiq Khan who said misogyny should be made a hate crime.

Liberal Democrat peer Lord Paddick - who served as deputy assistant commissioner in the Met Police - told the BBC there was "widespread sexism" within the force.

Officers are "concerned that things may be going backwards rather than forwards", he said.