Prosecution says rare term justified in ‘wholly exceptional case’
Wayne Couzens showed “remorse” for the murder of Sarah Everard and should have his whole-life prison sentence overturned, a court has been told.
O antigo polícia Metropolitana officer was given a rare order meaning that he can never be released from jail for the abduction, rape and murder in March 2021.
Na quarta-feira, his lawyers told the Court of Appeal that the penalty should be reduced to a regular life sentence with the prospect of release on licence.
Jim Sturman QC said he had shown remorse and “accepts his crimes are abhorrent”, and “deserves a very long life sentence – decades in jail”.
“It’s all too easy to imagine a worse case," ele adicionou. “The matter to decide is whether or not a term of minimum 35 para 39 years before release or a whole life order is merited.”
But Tom Little QC, representing the prosecution, said a whole life order was “neither wrong in principle nor manifestly excessive”, and that the murder of Ms Everard was a “wholly exceptional case”.
A bearded Couzens, wearing a grey jumper, appeared via video-link from HMP Frankland for the hearing.
Mr Sturman argued that there were several mitigating factors’ in Couzens’ favour, including the fact he pleaded guilty to the offences and swiftly dropped a false account given in an initial police interview – claiming he kidnapped Ms Everard on the instructions of an Eastern European gang.
The barrister said Couzens did not advance a “wicked defence”, such as by falsely claiming that Ms Everard had consensual sex with him and he killed her accidentally.
He argued that it was “untenable” for the trial judge to conclude that the murderer had no remorse and sentence him on that basis.
Jailing Couzens in September, Lord Justice Fulford had said investigating officers had compiled an “unanswerable” amount of evidence against him.
“There was, in my view, no credible innocent explanation for the evidence gathered against him, and this is relevant to the issue of whether he has expressed genuine remorse or regret,” the judge added.
“Notwithstanding his guilty pleas, in my view the defendant has throughout sought to minimise his true responsibility for what occurred, something he had done from the moment he first spoke to the police and lied about the Balkan people-trafficking gang. At no stage has he offered any kind of full explanation as to what occurred.”
Mr Sturman said that Couzens pleaded guilty before some of the evidence had been given to his legal team and laid out specifics before they were laid out by a forensic pathologist.
He told the court that Couzens had appeared at most of his hearings via a video link from prison, and that it was “hard to assess” his demeanour.
“The guilty pleas are highly significant and an important factor assessing remorse,” Mr Sturman said.
“The combination of remorse and the guilty plea should balance out the aggravating factor of him being a police officer – albeit off-duty in half uniform.”
He also argued that the case fell outside a list of criteria for whole life orders, and said that no one had been given such a term for a single murder unless it was of a politician, child or in a terror attack.
Mr Little argued that the criteria was not binding and it was “no surprise that parliament hasn’t legislated for something so unforeseeable”.
“This was offending of the utmost seriousness – a serving police officer using all of his knowhow, equipment and the like to act as the perpetrator,” he told the court.
“His criminality was a fundamental attack on our way of life.”
Couzens’ lawyers pointed out that serving police officers who murdered their partners had not been given whole life terms, but Mr Little said domestic cases were “not comparable”.
He highlighted how Couzens had hunted the streets of London for a victim and lured Ms Everard into his car using his warrant card.
“A whole life order was the correct sentence to impose in this truly exceptional case,” he concluded.
The appeal was heard by a special court of five judges, who are also considering a bid to increase the sentences handed to the killers of six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes.
The minimum 40-year term handed to Jordan Monaghan after he murdered two of his children and his new partner is also being reviewed by the judges, along with the sentence for double murderer Ian Steward.
He was convicted of murdering his first wife six years before he went on to murder his fiancee, and is appealing against his whole-life order.
The judgments in each case have been reserved to a later date.