Jail 'won't stop flashers', as offenders '10% more likely to go on to commit more serious sex crime'

1 March 2024, 16:21

Locking up flashers like Wayne Couzens will not help rehabilitate them, a former London prison governor has said
Locking up flashers like Wayne Couzens will not help rehabilitate them, a former London prison governor has said. Picture: Alamy
Charlotte Lynch

By Charlotte Lynch

The former governor of Belmarsh and Brixton prisons has said that jailing flashers will do nothing to stop them committing more serious sex offences when they get out of prison.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Calls are growing for tougher punishments to be imposed on offenders, after it emerged Sarah Everard's killer Wayne Couzens was reported to police for indecent exposure at least eight times before he murdered her.

The chairman of the College of Policing revealed those who commit indecent exposure are 10% more likely to go on to sexually assault someone within three to five years.

But Professor John Podmore said that locking up people who expose themselves on a ward with other sex offenders will only make them "worse", leaving them free to "groom each other".

Read more: Person who allowed Wayne Couzens to be employed ‘has to be for the chopping block’, Jess Phillips tells LBC

Read more: Killer cop Wayne Couzens reported to police eight times prior to the killing of Sarah Everard

Sangita Myska discusses how 'flashing' is a 'gateway to much more violent behaviour'

He told LBC: "Chances are they will be two to a cell with another sex offender, and they will be grooming each other, persuading each other that what they do, how they behave and how they react towards women and children is the norm. They will be getting worse".

Professor Podmore, who took HMP Brixton from being Britain's worst performing prison to being its most improved, said that tougher punishments would only "delay further serious offending", because "the vast majority, all but a handful, will be coming out [of prison]."

He said tougher sentences would only work alongside intervention programmes in prisons which "at the moment, just isn't happening".

Chief Constable Andy Marsh, the chairman of the College of Policing, told reporters the criminal justice system "doesn't take indecent exposure seriously enough" following the publication of the Angiolini Inquiry's first report in to how a serving police officer kidnapped, raped and murdered Sarah Everard in March 2021.

Police officer: 'Special place in hell' for Carrick and Couzens

The inquiry found there was “no doubt” a failure to properly investigate a report of flashing linked to Couzens in June 2015 was a missed opportunity to stop him. In her recommendations, Lady Eilish Angiolini KC called for a fundamental change to the police response to indecent exposure.

Chief Constable Marsh said unpublished research he had presented to the inquiry showed men who commit indecent exposure were between 5-10% more likely to commit a further more serious sexual offence within 3-5 years.

Mr Marsh said the revelation that Couzens was not identified as a suspect in 2015, despite his car registration being provided to police, "rings alarm bells" and said he was "determined" to review investigations guidance "to make sure we put a finer focus on this."

"The car should have been checked and the suspect should have been spoken to", he said.

Wayne Couzens
Wayne Couzens. Picture: Alamy

"Had we known the suspect was a serving police officer, he would not have been a serving police officer any longer - so he wouldn't have had the opportunity as a police officer to commit this hideous crime".

Home Secretary James Cleverly will meet with the mother of murdered student Libby Squire to discuss indecent exposure, whose killer had previously committed a string of sex crimes.

Lisa Squire claimed indecent exposure was "endemic", as she called for police officers to be fired for indecently exposing themselves, and suspended while investigations took place.

She told Tom Swarbrick on LBC: "I think it's always been seen as a lower level offence. And I don't think historically police have taken it seriously. And the criminal justice system has not taken it seriously either."

Some campaigners are concerned that plans announced by the Home Secretary to automatically suspend police officers who've been charged with the most serious crimes don't go far enough.

Mr Cleverly announced automatic suspension for those charged with indictable offences, which are heard in front of a jury.

It will still be left open to chief constables to decide what to do if an officer is accused of indecent exposure, because they are not indictable-only crimes.

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper slammed the action as "not good enough".

She told Tom: "If there's a police investigation launched into an officer involving any kind of domestic abuse or sexual offences, they should be automatically suspended.

"What the Home Secretary suggested [on Thursday] was that they would only be suspended if they were charged. That is not good enough at the point of investigation, they need to be suspended."