Labour vows to introduce national police standards as Starmer highlights Tory failure to tackle violence against women and girls – three years after the appalling murder of Sarah Everard

Keir Starmer has set out Labour’s plans to overhaul police vetting standards and root out rogue officers, as he challenged the Tories’ woeful inaction on tackling violence against women and girls.

In Prime Minister’s Questions today (Wednesday 6 March), the Labour leader demanded answers on how it was possible for Lady Elish Angiolini to have concluded last week that “there is nothing to stop another [Wayne] Couzens operating in plain sight”, three years on from the appalling murder of Sarah Everard.

Starmer highlighted the Tory government’s failure to act despite repeated warnings over several years, and called on the Prime Minister to adopt Labour’s plans for mandatory national vetting standards “that would stop anybody with a history of domestic abuse or sexual offending being allowed to join the police”.

Labour says this would end the current discrepancies between the 43 constabularies in recruitment and vetting standards, and ensure that applicants with a history of domestic abuse, indecent exposure or sexual assault would be automatically barred from joining the force.

The party would also introduce automatic suspensions for officers being investigated for rape, domestic abuse and other sexual offences, mandate training on violence against women and girls for all officers, and roll out specialist Rape and Serious Sexual Offences (RASSO) units in every police force.

Labour is committed to a complete overhaul of the police standards regime and has appointed former Chief Constable, Olivia Pinkney, as an advisor to take this work forward.

Lady Angiolini’s inquiry found that Couzens, who had a long history of allegations of sexual offending dating back nearly 20 years, should never have been allowed to become a police officer. Her report said that victims who came forward were not taken seriously enough and a series of “red flags” about his behaviour were not acted upon.

The Labour leader directly challenged the Prime Minister to commit to reviewing all indecent exposure allegations against serving officers in order to identify, investigate and remove those officers from the police service, as the Angiolini report recommended, but Rishi Sunak refused to do so. He also criticised the staggeringly low charge rates for rape (2.4 per cent), which are letting victims down, putting them off pursuing justice and allowing more sex offenders to get away with their crimes.

Keir Starmer MP, leader of the Labour Party, said at PMQs:

“Sarah Everard’s murder should have been a watershed moment – on policing reform, on the criminal justice system, on violence against women and girls. But the sad reality is that victims of rape who have the courage and bravery to come forward, have just a 2.4 per cent chance of their perpetrators being caught and charged within the year.

“Unless things change, the criminal justice system will continue to fail them. Labour is committed to introducing specialist rape and sexual offence teams in every force to give victims specialist support, and confidence that their experience will be investigated properly.”

Labour has pledged to deliver a step change in tackling violence against women and girls with a transformative package of measures to achieve its mission of halving incidents within a decade.

As part of this mission Labour would:

Roll out specialist RASSO units in every police force and require the police to use the tactics and tools normally reserved for counter-terror operations to go after the most dangerous serial perpetrators and get them off the streets.

Introduce ‘Raneem’s Law’ to transform the initial policing response to reports of domestic abuse, with specialist domestic abuse workers in 999 control rooms and strict new 24-hour time-limits for the police to consider the suitability of civil protection orders to keep victims safe at the earliest opportunity.

Bring in mandatory national standards for police vetting, mandatory training on violence against women and girls in every police force, and automatic suspensions for officers being investigated for rape, domestic abuse and other sexual offences.