Police ‘acted appropriately’ at Sarah Everard vigil

3 weeks ago
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Clashes at Clapham Common

Reuters

The Metropolitan Police acted “appropriately” at a vigil for Sarah Everard in south London earlier this month, a police watchdog has found.

The force came under intense criticism after women were handcuffed and removed from crowds on Clapham Common.

An inspectorate found that officers did not communicate enough on the night – but the response had been “measured”.

It called the media coverage a “public relations disaster” that damaged public confidence in policing.

Ms Everard, 33, was last seen walking home nearby on 3 March. Her body was found a week later in woodland near Ashford, Kent – prompting a public debate over women’s safety.

Images and footage from the resulting vigil on Clapham Common prompted widespread concern, including among the country’s most prominent political figures.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “deeply concerned” by the scenes, while Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called them “disturbing”.

The home secretary commissioned an independent investigation into the force’s decisions on the evening of the vigil, which were taken in the light of Covid restrictions.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) found that the force was “justified” in deciding that the risks of transmitting coronavirus “were too great to ignore”, and that officers “did their best to peacefully disperse the crowd”.

However, it added that “there was insufficient communication between police commanders about changing events on the ground”.

HMIC said calls for Met Police Commissioner Cressida Dick to resign – including from Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey – were “unwarranted”.

The inspectorate said “the chorus of those condemning” the force after the event showed “a distinct lack of respect for public servants facing… a sensitive and complex situation”.

“It is one thing… to recognise that the scenes were worrying or upsetting (and to order an inspection such as this). It is another to jump to conclusions – and in doing so, undermine public confidence in policing – based on very limited evidence,” the report said.

HMIC said “a more conciliatory response after the event might have served the Met’s interests better”.

Sarah Everard

HMIC said its inspection involved reviewing documents and body camera video footage.

Matt Parr, who led the inspection team, said: “We found that there are some things the Met could have done better, but we saw nothing to suggest police officers acted in anything but a measured and proportionate way in challenging circumstances.”

An inquest into Ms Everard’s death has been adjourned until the conclusion of criminal proceedings.

PC Wayne Couzens, 48, has been charged with her murder and kidnap.

He has been remanded in custody to appear at the Old Bailey on 9 July ahead of a trial that is set to start on 25 October.

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