Cressida Dick insists Kate Middleton did not break the law by going to Sarah Everard vigil

The Duchess of Cambridge did not break the law by attending the vigil for Sarah Everard because ‘she was working’, Dame Cressida Dick said today, as she slammed politicians including Sadiq Khan who criticised her officers for arresting protesters.

The Met Commissioner also revealed that she knew in advance that Kate was heading to Clapham Common to lay flowers – but admitted the officer in charge of policing the event did not. 

The Commissioner backed the royal’s trip to south-west London on March 13, despite saying she would have personally attended herself ‘if the gathering had been legal’.

Dame Cressida also defended her officers after they arrested protesters during clashes later that night, saying they had faced ‘extreme provocation’ after the policing watchdog cleared her officers of wrongdoing yesterday.

The Commissioner described the policing of the event as ‘extremely professional and calm’, adding: ‘People should learn that police have a very difficult job’. 

And she hit out at politicians who criticised the Met’s tactics that night, hours after the watchdog’s report rebuked the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan over his criticism of the arrests. MPs who called for Dame Cressida’s head included Sir Ed Davey, leader of the Liberal Democrats.

She said: ‘People in responsible positions should stop and think before they judge’, adding that City Hall were warned the day before there would be arrests if protesters refused to disperse. 

The Duchess of Cambridge visited Clapham Common to pay her respects to Sarah Everard in mid-March, but did not break the law because she 'was working', Dame Cressida Dick has said

The Duchess of Cambridge visited Clapham Common to pay her respects to Sarah Everard in mid-March, but did not break the law because she 'was working', Dame Cressida Dick has said

The Duchess of Cambridge visited Clapham Common to pay her respects to Sarah Everard in mid-March, but did not break the law because she ‘was working’, Dame Cressida Dick has said 

Dame Cressida also defended her officers after they arrested protesters during clashes later that night, saying they had faced 'extreme provocation' from some who attended the Clapham event in memory of marketing executive Miss Everard

Dame Cressida also defended her officers after they arrested protesters during clashes later that night, saying they had faced 'extreme provocation' from some who attended the Clapham event in memory of marketing executive Miss Everard

Dame Cressida also defended her officers after they arrested protesters during clashes later that night, saying they had faced 'extreme provocation' from some who attended the Clapham event in memory of marketing executive Miss Everard

Dame Cressida also defended her officers after they arrested protesters during clashes later that night, saying they had faced 'extreme provocation' from some who attended the Clapham event in memory of marketing executive Miss Everard

Dame Cressida also defended her officers after they arrested protesters during clashes later that night, saying they had faced ‘extreme provocation’ from some who attended the Clapham event in memory of marketing executive Miss Everard

Patsy Stevenson was arrested by police at the vigil in memory of murdered Sarah Everard, Officers were cleared of any wrongdoing

Patsy Stevenson was arrested by police at the vigil in memory of murdered Sarah Everard, Officers were cleared of any wrongdoing

Patsy Stevenson was arrested by police at the vigil in memory of murdered Sarah Everard, Officers were cleared of any wrongdoing

Sadiq Khan rebuked over his criticism of police tactics

Sadiq Khan (pictured yesterday) is in the firing line today as Dame Cressida Dick said she had warned him that there would be arrests at the vigil if crowds failed to disperse.

Yesterday’s report that cleared the police also reprimanded politicians including Mr Khan who sided with the protesters.

Explaining what happened, Dame Cressida said: ‘I had a great deal of contact both with City Hall at the most senior levels and with senior members of the Government.’

She went on to say: ‘What I was saying consistently was this is likely to be illegal, if it is illegal and people do not disperse when they’re asked to do so, we will use as much discretion as we can, we will encourage people, we will try to get them to disperse, but if they don’t disperse we will end up arresting people.’

Mr Khan had described the scenes from Clapham Common as ‘unacceptable’, adding that ‘it’s clear the response was at times neither appropriate nor proportionate’. MPs who called for Dame Cressida’s head included Sir Ed Davey, leader of the Liberal Democrats. 

But last night the Mayor of London said that he accepted the report, but added: ‘It is clear that trust and confidence of women and girls in the police and criminal justice system is far from adequate.

‘The events of the weekend of March 13 and 14 have done further damage to this and show that much more needs to be done.’

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Hundreds of people attended the vigil for Miss Everard, who was allegedly kidnapped and murdered by a Met armed officer. 

Asked if the Metropolitan Police knew about Kate’s visit to Clapham Common, Dame Cressida told the Today programme: ‘The Met did know, absolutely, but of course we take all sorts of precautions to make sure that we don’t unwittingly draw attention to visits like that.’

Asked if her visit was legal, the Met’s Commissioner replied: ‘I would imagine that, of course I have not asked her this question, but I think it’s worth looking at … just how strongly people felt, what she said about her attendance there.

‘She’s in the course of her duties, she was working.’

She added: ‘At that point people had a whole series of potential reasonable excuses for being away from home, we didn’t all have them.

‘I’ve picked out one that may apply to her but, let’s be clear, there was a very calm vigil to which she attended where lots and lots of people came.’

Kate, 39, sent the private letter after having attended a vigil for Miss Everard.

Sources have said the kidnap and murder of Miss Everard struck a chord with the Duchess. She is said to have remembered walking alone in London when she lived near where Miss Everard disappeared, before marrying Prince William.

The contents of the letter have been kept private, but she is believed to have expressed her sadness at Miss Everard’s death and told the family they are in her thoughts.

Kate previously laid flowers on Clapham Common at a vigil for Miss Everard. Her body was found in woodland in Kent after disappearing while walking home from a friend’s flat near the Common on March 3. 

Her death sparked an outpouring of support from women nationwide who have experienced sexual assault and discrimination.

A Palace source said at the time that Kate attended the vigil ‘to pay her respects to Sarah and her family’.

‘She remembers what it felt like to walk around London at night before she got married,’ the source said.

After yesterday’s report, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick said the force will consider whether it ‘lacked empathy’ in the communications after the vigil.

She told the Today programme: ‘The report suggests that if we had been slightly more conciliatory, I think was the word, in our communications afterwards, then that might have helped with what I think is in modern-day parlance a kind of social media pile-on.’

Hundreds of mourners defied social distancing to gather at Clapham Common to remember the murdered marketing executive

Hundreds of mourners defied social distancing to gather at Clapham Common to remember the murdered marketing executive

Hundreds of mourners defied social distancing to gather at Clapham Common to remember the murdered marketing executive

How the vigil for Sarah Everard turned to chaos

March 10 – Reclaim These Streets is formed by a group of women from south London and virtually meet for the first time to discuss doing something in memory of Sarah Everard and for women who feel unsafe, go missing or face violence. They email the police and council to tell them about the vigil.

March 11 – Police reply to RTS to say they were ‘developing a local policing plan’ which was interpreted by the group as support for the event. The council and force held a virtual conference with them where the details of the vigil were discussed but were unable to persuade police officers they had assessed the risks correctly. They provided the organisers with the open letter which said it would breach coronavirus restrictions.

March 12 – The National Police Chiefs’ Council and selected chief constables meet to discuss the national position on the vigils planned for the weekend. The meeting was united in the view that the All Tiers Regulations needed to be adhered to and enforced if necessary, and that vigils should not go ahead. The Home Secretary was said to have agreed with this approach and would encourage people not to attend in a public statement. The Metropolitan Police is served with notification of the judicial review by the organisers, who were joined at the meeting by members of their legal team. Police were told that the numbers showing an interest in attending the vigil had risen from 2,000 to 6,000. The organisers maintained that the planned vigil had public and political support with increasingly significant public interest being shown. The High Court makes the judicial review and says protests in such circumstances can be lawful, but is not clear on what this means for the vigil. At 7pm the police, council and organisers met again to try and understand the judgement and the force say it has not changed anything. At one point it appeared they could agree on how a vigil could happen – but organisers’ request for immunity from prosecution make talks impossible.

March 13 –  Morning and early afternoon see hundreds of well-wishers, including the Duchess of Cambridge, lay floral tributes and notes paying tribute to Sarah Everard at the bandstand on Clapham Common throughout the afternoon. 

4pm –  Around 200 people gather at the site as part of an illegal event organised by left-wing feminist group Sisters Uncut and ‘community collective’ Reclaim These Streets. 

5.45pm – A man walks onto the bandstand to make a speech, and begins shouting angrily about Ms Everard’s death and ranting about Covid rules. Some people respond with boos and chants of ‘not your place’. He is later led away by police. Piers Corbyn has also arrived and is seen at the bandstand.

6pm – A minute’s silence is held for Ms Everard. There are now around 500 people on the event, according to Sky News. The crowds began chanting ‘we will not be silenced’ as the police presence increases. An aerial photo shows officers dotted among the closely-packed crowd. 

6.27pm – A group of women leading chants from the bandstand are asked to leave by officers, who explain that the event is breaking Covid rules. The crowd respond with chants of ‘Shame on you’ as officers continue talking to the women. 

6.33pm – More police vans arrive and around 10 officers began walking towards the bandstand. An officer says over a loudspeaker, ‘This is no longer a vigil, it’s an unlawful gathering, we’re in the middle of a pandemic. You are going to get more officers coming here.’ This prompts more angry chants. 

7.08pm – As the atmosphere grows increasingly hostile, protester Patsy Stevenson – speaking from the bandstand – tells police to ‘go home’ via a loudspeaker and urges the crowd to stay. 

7.20pm – A woman is seen on video being forcefully led away by three officers. A minute later police repeat their warning that people have to leave and also post this on Twitter. 

7.22pm – A group of police grab a woman standing on the bandstand just along from Patsy Stevenson and move her to a police van, to jeers from the crowd. Flame-haired protester Ms Stevenson is also led away and pinned to the ground by three officers, in an image that went viral. She was arrested and fined £200. 

7.42pm – After chants of ‘all cops are b******s’, and two arrests, a group of officers are surrounded by the crowd. One of the protesters points aggressively at a policeman before shoving ensues as police push their way out of the crowd. 

7.57pm – Protesters attack a police van and graffiti ‘ACAB’ – for ‘all all cops are b******s’ on the vehicle. 

8pm – Police have dispersed most of the crowds and the atmosphere has calmed down.  

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Asked if she accepted that, she said: ‘We have to go away and think about that, of course we do. We have to see whether … we lacked empathy. 

She said the Metropolitan Police treated Sarah Everard’s vigil as an ‘unlawful’ gathering, when numbers increased and social distancing ended.

She told the Today programme: ‘It was clearly possible under the law for somebody who lived locally to walk as many did and lay flowers legally, there are other reasons why people might be in the area and they could have laid flowers calmly and peacefully, potentially legally.

‘You would have seen for six hours we did not enforce any laws, we showed some discretion and we allowed people to carry on.’

Dame Cressida added: ‘We knew that it would result in a mass gathering, we knew there would be large numbers, we knew who would come, we knew it would be unlawful.

‘I had a great deal of contact both with City Hall at the most senior levels and with senior members of the Government.’

She went on to say: ‘What I was saying consistently was this is likely to be illegal, if it is illegal and people do not disperse when they’re asked to do so, we will use as much discretion as we can, we will encourage people, we will try to get them to disperse, but if they don’t disperse we will end up arresting people.’

Priti Patel backed Scotland Yard’s handling of the Sarah Everard vigil last night after the policing watchdog cleared officers of wrongdoing.

The Home Secretary said police ‘acted the right way’, while the Chief Inspector of Constabulary said condemnation of heavy-handed tactics had been ‘unwarranted’.

In a thinly veiled rebuke to London Mayor Sadiq Khan – who branded officers’ behaviour ‘unacceptable’ – Sir Thomas Winsor said ‘leading voices’ had ‘jumped to conclusions’ and undermined public confidence in the police. The storm erupted after a vigil in memory of Miss Everard, 33, who vanished on her walk home in south London. 

Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens has been charged with her kidnap and murder.

The Duchess of Cambridge was among those who travelled to Clapham Common to pay tribute to Miss Everard on March 13. Hours later, shocking footage showed women being bundled to the ground in scenes which prompted calls from some MPs for Met Commissioner Cressida Dick to resign.

Miss Patel asked the policing watchdog to investigate, saying at the time that some of the scenes were ‘distressing’ – but Sir Thomas praised officers for acting ‘lawfully, sensitively and proportionately’ at the vigil, which resulted in nine people being fined.

His report said: ‘The chorus of those condemning the Metropolitan Police, and calling for the resignation of the Commissioner, within hours – and presumably, with a very limited understanding of what had happened – was unwarranted. Whereas a certain degree of uninformed commentary, particularly on social media, is inevitable, in this case some of the leading voices were those in positions of some responsibility. It is one thing – as in the case of the Home Secretary – to recognise that the scenes were worrying or upsetting. It is another to jump to conclusions – and in doing so, undermine public confidence in policing – based on very limited evidence. To do so shows a distinct lack of respect for public servants.’

Miss Patel said yesterday: ‘I stand by the police and I back the police. I know how difficult it is and has been for police during this pandemic.

‘They’ve put themselves in harm’s way throughout this entire pandemic and the sad fact of the matter is – as we saw on that night and as the report has reflected on as well, police officers were assaulted – they were subject to violent abuse.’ She said the report had shown that police ‘acted in the right way’, adding: ‘It’s important people don’t pre-judge without… the full facts. Quite frankly, I was absolutely appalled and sickened to see the level of violence that was being displayed… including violent behaviour towards female officers.’

Police chiefs had feared the vigil could be a target for terrorists. There were also concerns that the large crowds – thought to have peaked at around 1,500 people – risked spreading Covid. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary found that officers had tried to disperse the crowd peacefully and remained ‘calm and professional’ in the face of a torrent of abuse, including from some women who said they hoped female officers would be raped.

Although the vigil started peacefully, it was ‘overshadowed by the malign actions of a few’ after being hijacked by a rabble including Piers Corbyn, the brother of former Labour leader Jeremy.

Mr Khan had described the scenes from Clapham Common as ‘unacceptable’, adding that ‘it’s clear the response was at times neither appropriate nor proportionate’. MPs who called for Dame Cressida’s head included Sir Ed Davey, leader of the Liberal Democrats.

Yesterday Ken Marsh of the Metropolitan Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, said: ‘The knee-jerk commentary… has made the already difficult job of our colleagues in London incredibly harder. And more dangerous. These people should be ashamed.

‘This was outrageous behaviour from those who should know better and we trust as elected officials. We now call on these politicians to make themselves accountable and to apologise to our hard-working colleagues for the damage they have done.’

The watchdog’s report said the Met could have given a ‘more conciliatory response’ in the face of what was described as a ‘public relations disaster’. However, Matt Parr, who led the HMIC team, said critics ‘showed a lack of respect for public servants facing a complex situation, and undermined public confidence in policing based on very limited evidence’.

Police officers form a cordon as well-wishers turn on their phone torches at the vigil before it boiled over

Police officers form a cordon as well-wishers turn on their phone torches at the vigil before it boiled over

Police officers form a cordon as well-wishers turn on their phone torches at the vigil before it boiled over

He added: ‘After reviewing a huge body of evidence – rather than a snapshot on social media – 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.’

Jamie Klingler of Reclaim These Streets, which planned the vigil, said the report was ‘a farce and a waste of time’. She added: ‘There’s no positive legacy. The Met has created an uphill battle for themselves.

I’ve spoken to some young teenage girls about what it was like to see those pictures. They were horrified. And that means the police on the ground are going to have a much harder time getting those women to report rapes and assaults. You don’t want women to be scared to walk into local police stations.’

Mr Khan said yesterday: ‘It is my job to stand up on behalf of Londoners and ensure that there is effective scrutiny of the Metropolitan Police – particularly in the light of such widespread public dismay. I accept the report, but it is clear that trust and confidence of women and girls in the police and criminal justice system is far from adequate.’

Scotland Yard assistant commissioner Louisa Rolfe said: ‘This report makes clear the difficult circumstances officers faced as a peaceful vigil became a hostile rally. We must always be consistent in our policing of public events. I am extremely proud of the restraint, compassion and professionalism officers showed during a fast- moving and challenging situation.’

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