Johnson to chair crime taskforce on violence against women as he calls Everard vigil footage ‘concerning’

‘Every part of the criminal justice system must work to protect girls and women,’ PM says

Sam Hancock
Monday 15 March 2021 00:45
Crowds gather outside of Scotland Yard to mourn Sarah Everard

Boris Johnson will chair a meeting of the government’s crime and justice taskforce on Monday to discuss what more needs to be done to stamp out violence against women and girls.

The meeting will be attended by ministers, senior police officers and representatives from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

It will fall two days after a vigil held at Clapham Common in memory of Sarah Everard. Clashes between police officers and people in the crowd were shared on social media, prompting a wave of criticism from MPs who condemned what they called a “heavy-handed” approach.

Read more: Cressida Dick ‘more determined’ to lead Met and not considering resigning

Ahead of the meeting, Mr Johnson said: “Like everyone who saw it, I was deeply concerned about the footage from Clapham Common on Saturday night.

“I have spoken with the Metropolitan Police commissioner who has committed to reviewing how this was handled and the home secretary has also commissioned HM Inspectorate of Constabulary to conduct lessons learned review into the policing of the event.

“Tomorrow I will chair a meeting of the government’s crime and justice taskforce to look at what further action we need to take to protect women and ensure our streets are safe.

“The death of Sarah Everard must unite us in determination to drive out violence against women and girls and make every part of the criminal justice system work to protect and defend them.”

Mr Johnson will meet with Priti Patel, justice secretary Robert Buckland, Max Hill QC, the director of public prosecutions, and Metropolitan Police commissioner Dame Cressida Dick. They will discuss strategy on violence against women and girls, government work on securing safer streets, and rape prosecutions and the criminal justice system.

On Sunday night, hundreds of people attended a demonstration in response to Saturday’s policing of the Sarah Everard vigil, and also to call for more action to protect women.

Some also protested against the government’s plans to push through a new policing bill which would crack down on peaceful protests.

The legislation would give Ms Patel powers to define “serious disruption” protests might cause to communities and organisations, which police can then rely on to impose conditions on the demonstrations.

The Labour Party has since said it will vote against the bill.

Ms Patel said ahead of the meeting: “With Sarah and her family in my thoughts and prayers, I will continue to do all I can in my role as home secretary to protect women and girls. Everyone should be free to walk our streets without fear of harassment, abuse or violence.”

The prime minister is understood to have talked to Dame Cressida on Sunday morning about the policing of the Clapham vigil. She later spoke out to defy calls for her resignation.

“As you know, I’m the first woman commissioner of the Met – perhaps [the death of Ms Everard] appals me even more because of that,” she told reporters, adding she was not considering her position.

Dame Cressida said her officers were put in a difficult position by the government’s stringent coronavirus rules and had to intervene for public health reasons.

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