The rape and murder of Sarah Everard - an entirely innocent young woman who was simply walking home at night - would rightly have been appalling in any circumstances. The fact that Wayne Couzens was a serving police officer makes his evil crime even more shocking, further compounded by the fact that he used his trusted position as a constable to perpetrate these vile acts.
First and foremost we must remember that Sarah was an individual. A young woman in the prime of her life whose family are still grieving for their horrific loss. Our thoughts and prayers should be with her friends and loved ones.
Inevitably this raises serious questions about the vetting of police officers. This is clearly an important area and one which is under increased scrutiny, but as important is the culture of an organisation. I am encouraged when officers and staff within Thames Valley Police have raised concerns about inappropriate behaviour by colleagues. I will continue to ensure the police take a robust approach to upholding the highest standards amongst our officers. Officers and staff at all levels of the organisation should not just be enabled but emboldened to hold their colleagues to account and should do so without fear or favour.
No one is more shocked and disgusted by these diabolical crimes than the police officers I speak to. Respect and confidence must be earned, but the actions of one man do not represent policing in this country and certainly not in Thames Valley. I want to reassure the public that whilst the police must work hard to demonstrate the correct processes and cultures are in place, people should still have confidence in our police officers. They continue to put on their uniform each day, often putting themselves in harms way, to protect the public.
I have two young daughters and I want them to grow up knowing they can trust the police and that the sight of someone in uniform should be a sign of reassurance. We can never be complacent about upholding the highest standards within policing and the concerns held by many following this case are understandable. Nevertheless, the overwhelming majority of police officers join the Force with the purest of motives and a true desire to keep the public safe.
The greatest threat to women in our society is sadly in their own homes, from domestic abuse. Thames Valley Police dedicate significant resources to tackling this crime, as we as leading the way on tackling predatory offenders in the night-time economy. Strong, effective policing is part of the solution to the concerns about violence against women, but whilst the culture within policing is important, the culture in our wider society is even more important and we all have a responsibility to hold each other to high standards and protect each other.