Top Met officer denies vetting errors with Sarah Everard killer Wayne Couzens

Deputy Met commissioner Sir Stephen House said the force believed vetting was carried out on killer cop Wayne Couzens “to an appropriate standard”.

A top Met Police officer has denied there were vetting issues with Sarah Everard’s killer Wayne Couzens - a serving police officer at the time.

Deputy Met commissioner Sir Stephen House has said it is “not clear” that there were problems with vetting in the case of rapist and murderer Couzens.

Three days before he snatched Ms Everard, Couzens allegedly exposed himself at a McDonald’s in south London - which was reported to the police.

Sir Stephen House (left) has denied there were vetting errors over Wayne Couzens (right). Photo: Getty/Met Police

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Sir Stephen described Couzens’ crimes as “gut wrenching” and said: “Nobody in this room can be said to be more shocked or upset than I was at the actions of Wayne Couzens.”

It came amidst a fiery City Hall meeting which saw senior Met figure Sir Stephen defend the force’s reputation and pay tribute to outgoing commissioner, Dame Cressida Dick.

Speaking this morning (Wednesday, February 23), Sir Stephen, who is Dame Cressida’s number two, was asked about vetting issues relating to firearms cop Couzens’ employment.

A family handout photo of Sarah Everard issued by the Crown Prosecution Service.

He said: “I don’t mean to be confrontational.

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“There are a number of assumptions in what you say when you say there is obviously a problem with vetting.

“We are not clear that that is the case.

“It is obvious now when you look at his background that there were potential problems.

“I would remind people this is a man who worked for a previous police force.

Some of the biggest controversies facing the Met Commissioner has been around Sarah Everard’s murder - and the delayed probe into the alleged partygate scandal (image: NationalWorld)

“He came into the Met through an unarmed command and then went into an armed command.

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“He did go through vetting. We carried out the vetting and we believed we carried it out to an appropriate standard.

“We have since raised that standard.”

Couzens joined the Met in 2018, after working for the Civil Nuclear Constabulary, which is responsible for guarding the UK’s power stations.

At the CNC he was reportedly nicknamed “the rapist”, and then in 2015 he was accused of driving around naked while a Kent Police volunteer.

At Scotland Yard he progressed to join the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection unit, which guards the prime minister, cabinet members and parliament.

Sir Stephen, who has been tipped as a potential replacement for his boss, later told the London Assembly policing committee meeting: “Nobody in this room can be said to be more shocked or upset than I was at the actions of Wayne Couzens.

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“That goes across the Met Police as a whole… every time I hear people say the horrific circumstances of the murder of Sarah Everard by one of your colleagues has destroyed trust, of course that gives me great concern.

Sarah Everard was murdered by serving Metropolitan police officer Wayne Couzens (Photo: DANIEL LEAL/AFP via Getty Images)

“As a father of two daughters it gives me great concern.”

And he also told the meeting, which included deputy mayor for policing Sophie Linden, that “morale has been knocked”.

He said: “We don’t like the fact that one of our members is a murderer. We don’t like the fact that some of our members are facing rape allegations.

“We join up to stop that happening, not to be part of an organisation where that is happening.

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“It’s gut wrenching for us.”

Sir Stephen House, deputy commissioner of the Met Police. Photo: Getty

Couzens joined the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection (PaDP) branch in February 2020, after joining the Met from the Civil Nuclear Constabulary, in 2018.

Labour member Marina Ahmad asked whether the issue of the vetting of the disgraced ex-officer was particularly bad at PaDP, or “equally bad across the Met as a whole?”

She stressed that issues from Couzens’ previous force “weren’t picked up” and added: “Clearly the process at the time wasn’t as robust.”

Marina Ahmad, Labour AM for Lambeth and Southwark. Photo: GLA

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Sir Stephen, who worked across policing in the UK, including in Sussex and Scotland, said: “Vetting is an extremely important part of dealing with the problems that we have inside the organisation.

“The idea that we can either stop people with the wrong attitudes or unacceptable views getting in is a great idea if we can do that and vetting can be strong enough to do that.”

A Met review of the PaDP unit, as well as a review by government fixer Dame Louise Casey, and the Dame Elish Angiolini inquiry into Ms Everard’s murder are looking into vetting.

“It would be wrong of me to try to preempt what the Angiolini review is going to say and find about vetting,” Sir Stephen said.

He told the assembly members the force was putting more emphasis on social media, but admitted “there is only a certain amount we can do” due to the nature of WhatsApp groups.

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Sir Stephen said the Met were not able to access the platform unless as part of a criminal investigation.

Have you been affected by issues with the Met Police? Contact senior reporter Jessica Frank-Keyes via email at [email protected] in strictest confidence.