Listening to the heart-breaking victim impact statements from the family of Sarah Everard I, like many people, was moved to tears. The details that were revealed in the court hearing were so horrific and will have affected many people. It has impacted on me. Sarah could have been my sister, my sister-in-law, my friend.
The situation has shaken trust and confidence in the police. No amount of protests that this was a lone individual will stop women feeling uncertain if they are approached by a male police officer. There are no words that will wipe those feelings away. After my time working in the police it makes me sad to think of all those amazing officers who may be seen through that filter. There is no one thing that will rebuild confidence in the police. There is a long road ahead.
What matters now is that there is a recognition that things need to be improved on many fronts. There needs to be a change in the culture so that where there are concerns about the behaviour of police officers colleagues feel able to speak out. It needs a change in the way the police deal with internal investigations and complaints. But more than this there needs to be more done to ensure women feel safe and to amplify women’s voices within policing.
I hope that policing doesn’t try to move forward too quickly and takes the time to reflect. This is not a time to become defensive, and should be a time to be open and willing to listen, learn and change. This moment needs to be a turning point. Strategies and plans to tackle violence against women and girls are all fine but what needs to happen now is action.
The media will ask questions about policing, about trust, about violence against women, about safety on the streets. All that is to be expected. But what we need to remember is Sarah Everard described by the Judge as a ‘talented and much loved young woman’ and by her mother as ‘caring’, ‘funny’, ‘clever’ and ‘a wonderful daughter’.
My thoughts are with her family who showed such strength in reading their victim impact statements yesterday in court and in front of their daughter’s killer. I hope we all remember Sarah.