UK police officer who murdered woman sentenced for further sex crimes

LONDON (Reuters) -A former London police officer, who was jailed for life in 2021 for raping and murdering Sarah Everard in a case that shocked Britain, has been sentenced to 19 months in prison for exposing himself in incidents which took place before that attack.

Wayne Couzens, 50, pleaded guilty last month to three charges of exposing himself, two of which happened less than a month before he attacked Everard. His whole life sentence for her murder already meant he had no chance of parole.

"Couzens repeatedly targeted women to expose himself to on multiple occasions. These offences were abhorrent and caused great distress and discomfort for the victims," Rosemary Ainslie, Head of the Crown Prosecution Service Special Crime Division, said in a statement.

"It is right that he has been prosecuted for these offences, and that he will continue to spend the rest of his life in prison."

The first offence involved Couzens exposing himself to a cyclist in an isolated country lane in November 2020. He then exposed himself to workers at a McDonald's drive-through restaurant on two occasions in February 2021.

Couzens, whose job was to guard diplomatic premises, abducted 33-year-old marketing executive Everard on a London street as she walked home from visiting a friend in March 2021, using his police credentials to force her into his car.

Her body was later found in woodland about 50 miles (80 km) away in southeast England.

London's Metropolitan Police has been plunged crisis after a series of scandals in recent years including the conviction of David Carrick, 48, who admitted carrying out 24 counts of rape over almost two decades while serving as a police officer.

In January, London Commissioner Mark Rowley said hundreds of officers were likely to be sacked for sexual and domestic abuse offences as the capital's police force seeks to regain public trust.

Following Monday's sentencing, the Independent Office for Police Conduct published its investigation into racist, sexist and homophobic messages exchanged by police officers on a Whatsapp group in 2019 that Couzens was part of.

It said two former Met officers had been convicted of offences in relation to the messages and received prison sentences, and four other serving or former officers had been dismissed and barred from policing.

(Reporting by Farouq Suleiman, Editing by Kylie MacLellan)