Killer ex-police officer Wayne Couzens fails in challenge to whole-life sentence

Lord Burnett said the gravity of the case was ‘so exceptionally high such that a whole life order rather than a minimum term order should be made’.

29 July 2022

Wayne Couzens is still set to die in prison after losing his bid to reduce his sentence at the Court of Appeal.

In May, senior judges heard challenges or appeals against the prison sentences of five convicted killers, including the whole-life terms of former police officer Couzens and double murderer Ian Stewart.

Emma Tustin and Thomas Hughes, who killed six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, also had their sentences reviewed, along with triple murderer Jordan Monaghan.

On Friday, the Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett and four other judges refused to lower Couzens or Tustin’s sentences, while increasing the sentence of Hughes, Arthur’s father and reducing Stewart’s.

Last year, Couzens, 49, was handed a whole life term for the rape and murder of 33-year-old Sarah Everard, the first time the sentence had been imposed for a single murder of an adult not committed in the course of a terror attack.

Appealing against the whole-life term, Couzens’s lawyers argued he deserved “decades in jail” but said a whole-life term was excessive.

However, the judges refused to change his sentence.

In the judgment, Lord Burnett said the case involved “unspeakably grim detail” and that Couzens had “sought to minimise his true responsibility from the moment he had first spoken to the police”.

Sarah Everard anniversary
Sarah Everard (Family/PA)

He continued: “This was, as the judge said, warped, selfish and brutal offending, which was both sexual and homicidal.

“It was a case with unique and extreme aggravating features.

“Chief amongst these, as the judge correctly identified, was the grotesque misuse by Couzens of his position as a police officer, with all that connoted, to facilitate Ms Everard’s kidnap, rape and murder.”

Lord Burnett said the seriousness of the case was “so exceptionally high such that a whole life order rather than a minimum term order should be made”.

Sarah Everard death
Floral tributes at the bandstand in Clapham Common, London, for Sarah Everard (Yui Mok/PA)

He continued: “It provides for its unique and defining feature, which was that Couzens had used his knowledge and status as a police officer to perpetrate his appalling crimes against Ms Everard and for the extensive and extreme nature of the other aggravating features which were present: the significant and cold-blooded planning and pre-meditation; the abduction of Ms Everard; the most serious sexual conduct; the mental and physical suffering inflicted on Ms Everard before her death; and the concealment and attempts to destroy Ms Everard’s body.

“We agree with the judge that having determined there should be a whole life order, given the misuse of Couzens’ role as a police officer and the serious aggravating features of the offending the guilty pleas did not affect the outcome.”

Lord Burnett, sitting with Dame Victoria Sharp, Lord Justice Holroyde, Mr Justice Sweeney and Mr Justice Johnson, said there had been 59 prisoners serving whole life orders as of March 31, 2022, including Couzens and Stewart.

Also reviewing the sentences of Arthur’s killers, the Court of Appeal was told the child suffered a catastrophic brain injury while in the care of Tustin, who was jailed for life with a minimum term of 29 years for his murder.

Arthur Labinjo-Hughes death
Arthur Labinjo-Hughes (Olivia Labinjo-Halcrow/PA)

Tustin challenged the length of her sentence for two admitted counts of child cruelty while Arthur’s father, Hughes, who was sentenced to 21 years for manslaughter, appealed against his sentence.

Both sentences for killing Arthur were challenged as being unduly lenient.

The judges refused to change Tustin’s sentence, finding she should not be given a whole life order, but Hughes’ sentence was found to be unduly lenient and was increased to 24 years.

Double killer Stewart, 61, who murdered his first wife six years before he went on to murder his fiancee, successfully appealed against his whole-life order.

In a ruling on Friday, Lord Burnett and the four other judges said Stewart was not a case where a whole life order should be imposed, reducing his sentence to life with a 35-year minimum term.

Judges also reviewed the sentence of Jordan Monaghan, who was handed a minimum term of 40 years at Preston Crown Court after he murdered two of his children and his new partner.

Killers appeal
Composite photo of (left to right) Emma Tustin, Thomas Hughes, Ian Stewart, Wayne Couzens and Jordan Monaghan (PA)

The Court of Appeal previously heard that between January 2013 and October 2016 he murdered three-week-old Ruby and 21-month-old Logan before murdering Evie Adams.

In Friday’s ruling, the judges found that while a whole life order should not be imposed, the sentence should be increased to life with a minimum term of 48 years.

More from Perspective

Get a free copy of our print edition


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.
You need to agree with the terms to proceed

Your email address will not be published. The views expressed in the comments below are not those of Perspective. We encourage healthy debate, but racist, misogynistic, homophobic and other types of hateful comments will not be published.