Met Police to appeal against ruling it breached rights of Sarah Everard vigil organisers

Force says it must ‘resolve what’s required by law when policing protests and events in the future’

Jane Dalton
Friday 18 March 2022 18:57
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Reclaim These Streets organisers hit back at police defence over Sarah Everard vigil

The Metropolitan Police say they will seek permission to appeal against a High Court judgment that they breached the rights of organisers of a vigil for Sarah Everard with their handling of the planned event.

Last week, judges condemned the Met for breaching the rights of the Reclaim These Streets group, which cancelled its planned event in March last year after being threatened with arrest and £10,000 fines under Covid laws.

Two senior judges upheld a claim by the group’s founders, finding that the Met’s decisions in the run-up to the event were “not in accordance with the law”.

Lord Justice Warby said the Met’s warning that the vigil for the 33-year-old would be illegal “interfered with the claimants’ rights because each had a ‘chilling effect’ and made at least some causal contribution to the decision to cancel the vigil”.

He added: “None of the Met’s decisions was in accordance with the law; the evidence showed that it failed to perform its legal duty to consider whether the claimants might have a reasonable excuse for holding the gathering, or to conduct the fact-specific proportionality assessment required in order to perform that duty.”

The force now says it has “taken time to consider with great care the decision itself and the wider implications for policing” following the ruling.

The Met said: “It’s absolutely right that we are held to account for our actions and that there is proper scrutiny of the decisions we make as a police force in upholding legislation and maintaining public order.

“We also respect the strong views held by Reclaim These Streets in defence of human rights and public protest, and their pursuit of justice for these views.

“As an organisation, we work with, support and police hundreds of protests and events across London every day, and take our responsibilities under the Human Rights Act in doing so very seriously.

“It’s important for policing and the public that we have absolute clarity of what’s expected of us in law. This is why we feel we must seek permission to appeal the judgment [sic] in order to resolve what’s required by law when policing protests and events in the future.”

After Ms Everard was kidnapped from near Clapham Common, raped and murdered by serving armed officer Wayne Couzens, women set up a group called Reclaim These Streets to organise a vigil, for her and “all women who feel unsafe, who go missing from our streets and who face violence every day”.

Scotland Yard told organisers the vigil would be illegal and that they could be fined £10,000. They also warned people not to attend.

On Sunday, just over a year since Ms Everard’s murder, hundreds of protesters demonstrated in London against the Metropolitan Police, setting off rape alarms, creating a deafening noise.

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