‘I am so fearful’: Young women outside Old Bailey as Couzens given whole-life sentence

One said: ‘If anything happened to me, I don’t think I’d be able to call a police officer in confidence’

Young women living in London have said they’re “relieved” but “terrified”, as they gathered outside the Old Bailey to hear the news that Wayne Couzens will likely never be released from prison for the murder of Sarah Everard.

As a crowd of over 50 men and women of all ages convened, one law student told The Tab Couzens’ whole-life sentence is “the best outcome”. But Alice, who lives in Clapham, continued, saying: “I don’t think there is a sentence really that could equate to the crimes he has committed. It’s hard to comprehend.”

After a tense and emotional wait for the verdict to emerge from the courtroom, The Tab spoke to five women – almost all of whom live in Clapham or attended the Clapham Common vigil for Sarah in March.

Clapham Common vigil for Sarah Everard, in March this year

Like Alice, Queen Mary student Lois lives in Clapham, and told The Tab Sarah is “someone we can all identify with”.

She said the revelations of Wayne Couzens’ crimes have been “devastating”. “It’s my worst nightmare,” she said. “I am so fearful on the streets all the time, the minute it goes dark. In winter it’s worse because it gets dark earlier.

“I’m just scared and sad and I feel like we’re making no progress.”

As soon as people waiting outside the Old Bailey heard the news that Couzens has received a whole-life sentence for the rape, kidnap and murder of Sarah Everard in March this year, anti-lockdown protestors hijacked the scenes with signs, a microphone and large speaker.

Led by Piers Corbyn, they spoke about lockdown and vaccines, and said “the corona rules are the cause” for Couzens’ crimes. Lois and her friend Esmina, both Queen Mary students, told the protestors the issue is men, not lockdown. One protestor began to shout at them after this.

Speaking to The Tab after the incident, Lois said: “I think there’s a lot of issues still to be raised. I’m really happy about the sentencing, I’m not happy with how people are acting outside of the sentencing. This is an issue to do with men and to do with women’s rights, it’s nothing to do with anything else.

“It does still raise the issue of abuses of police power, as women can we trust the police? I’m not sure.

“It’s so upsetting to see people using this as a platform to further their own cause. They don’t care. It’s horrible.”

Lois doesn’t think anything has changed since Sarah Everard’s murder. “A lot of men are fighting for ‘not all men’, nothing has changed.

“I really don’t think anything’s changed, I think there’s more tension between men and women, men and the feminist movement.”

Esmina said: “It’s giving people an excuse to say ‘it’s not men, it’s a Covid law’, which is taking away from this.

“Women still have so much equality to get, we’re not even halfway there yet. There were football rallies and as soon as women wanted to protest for something that really mattered it was like ‘no’.

“If anything happened to me, I don’t think I’d be able to call a police officer in confidence.”

Lois agrees with this, saying: “How are we to know now, if you get arrested as a lone woman on the street, how do I know that’s legit? What can I do? It’s a real worry for me now. The one force that’s supposed to be there to protect you, it isn’t.”

Esmina and Lois think the “whole policing system needs to be dismantled and put together a different way”, and there needs to be more education in schools. Feminism needs to be “on the national curriculum”, they say.

People gather, waiting to hear Wayne Couzens’ sentence

Also anxiously waiting outside the Old Bailey to hear Couzens’ sentencing was Ellie and Roxanne, who also attended the Clapham Common vigil in March where police used force and arrests were made.

Speaking to The Tab, Ellie said: “I think it was the only sentence that would have been appropriate, he couldn’t have been given anything else. But given how the police have acted especially at Clapham Common, I wasn’t entirely confident that was the sentence he’d get. But I’m relieved that it is.

“With the Police, Crime and Sentencing Bill which is trying to be passed at the minute, it is genuinely terrifying that the police are being handed more power and given more ammunition to arrest people. If anything’s changed, I think it’s become scarier in the past six months.”

Roxanne said she’s relieved for Sarah’s family, and said the case has been “exhausting”. “I’ve heard stories from a lot of women, you see police now and it’s – he was a police officer at the time. And it’s come out that he abused his power. There’s all this talk that ‘he’s a normal guy, he’s a family guy’ – it is normal men, family men, police men.

“If anything it’s made women more vigilant than they already had to be. If you can’t go to the police, who can you go to?”

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