Sarah Everard: Met Police ‘acted appropriately’ at Clapham vigil, review finds

The Metropolitan Police "acted appropriately" over their handling of a vigil for Sarah Everard on Clapham Common, a review has found.

The report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) has found that the force "was justified in adopting the view that the risks of transmitting COVID-19 at the vigil were too great to ignore".

The vigil for the marketing executive, whose body was found a week after she went missing in London, was held on Saturday 13 March despite police warning it would breach lockdown regulations.

Reclaim These Streets had failed to agree with the Met on how a vigil could be held in line with the rules, however hundreds of people turned up anyway to lay flowers on the bandstand to show their respects.

While it started peacefully, the atmosphere became tense after a few hours when a number of women were bundled to the ground and arrested.

The report states that "officers remained calm and professional when subjected to abuse" and "did not act inappropriately or in a heavy handed manner".

But it said that there was insufficient communication between police commanders about the changing nature of the events on the ground.

The watchdog also found that the force should have adopted "a more conciliatory response" amid criticism after the event and that public confidence in the Met Police had "suffered as a result" of its policing.

"We are determined to tackle violence against women and girls and hope this report goes some way to build confidence that our officers are working tirelessly to keep Londoners safe," Met Police said in a statement.

Police added that while the vast majority of those who attended the vigil throughout the afternoon did so in a "dignified, respectful and lawful manner", the atmosphere changed after 6pm and officers faced "considerable abuse and hostility from a small minority of the crowd".

The handling of the event in tribute to Ms Everard was heavily criticised, with Boris Johnson saying he was "deeply concerned" by footage showing officers detaining women.

Met Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick dismissed calls to resign and defended the force’s actions.

Reclaim These Streets said the report from HMICFRS was "disappointing" and demonstrated "institutional sexism running through the force".

In a statement on Twitter, the group also said: "The HMICFRS interviewed Reclaim These Streets for over 10 hours. The Met Police antagonistic actions around the vigil forced us to cancel the event, which then in turn, caused a greater number of people to attend due to their publicity.

"We warned the Met Police on Friday night, that forcing us to cancel would cause additional risk to public safety, as did Lambeth Council. They completely dismissed our warning and concerns.

"The HMIC had a responsibility to begin rebuilding the trust between women and girls across the capital and the Metropolitan Police. The disregard for us as women organisers in the report is clear there is still institutional sexism running through the force."

Sir Thomas Winsor, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary, said: "Our civilian police model is precious. Officers are our fellow citizens, invested by the community to keep the community safe.

"They rely upon and are entitled to receive public support when they act lawfully, sensitively and proportionately; in this case, in the face of severe provocation and in very difficult circumstances, they did just that."

The Duchess of Cambridge was among those who paid their respects earlier in the day and was seen walking around the site reading the messages left on the tributes.

A minute’s silence for Ms Everard was held at 6pm when the crowd had reached around 500 people and the police presence had grown.

It was shortly after this that chanting began and a local councillor asked people to go home.

As it got dark the police started to urge a group of people on the bandstand to leave and told them COVID regulations were being broken.

The bandstand was soon almost surrounded by officers and the atmosphere started to become more hostile. It was at this point that a number of women appeared to be shoved and people starting shouting at the police.

Chants of "all cops are b******s" were directed towards officers on the bandstand.

Met Police officers grabbed women stood within the bandstand before leading them away, to screaming and shouting from onlookers.

By 8pm the clashes had finished and the Metropolitan Police said four people were arrested for public order and coronavirus regulation breaches.

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