Scotland Yard cleared over handling of Sarah Everard vigil

The Metropolitan Police has been cleared over its controversial handling of the Sarah Everard vigil on Clapham Common.

A report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS), concluded that the force had acted appropriately when it broke up the gathering earlier this month.

Scotland Yard came in for intense criticism over its handling of the vigil, with some even calling for Dame Cressida Dick, the Met Commissioner to resign.

But Matt Parr, the inspector, who carried out the review, at the behest of Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, said much of the criticism had been unwarranted and showed a lack of respect to the police.

He said: “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.

He added: “Condemnation of the Met’s actions within mere hours of the vigil – including from people in positions of responsibility – was unwarranted, showed a lack of respect for public servants.”

The vigil, which was held to remember Miss Everard, the 33-year-old marketing executive who was abducted and killed as she walked home in south London earlier this month, had been ruled illegal by Scotland Yard because of Covid regulations.

But the HMICFRS found that an event on Clapham Common could have taken place because the right to protest remains even during the pandemic.

The inspectorate concluded that, in this case, the Met’s decision to prioritise consistency with their approach to policing other mass gatherings during the COVID-19 lockdown was right.

And the report also stated that while the event had been intended as a vigil for Miss Everard “it was clearly attended by those with other causes in mind”.

Commenting on the report, Sir Tom 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.”

Scotland Yard insisted that it had facilitated the event up until the point when people began to make political speeches at which stage officers moved in to break up what had become an illegal gathering under Covid regulataions.

Four people were arrested but footage of the police’s actions went viral leading to widespread condemnation.

Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, expressed concern over the Met’s conduct and after holding an emergency meeting with Dame Cressida said he was not satisfied with the force’s explanation.

The Metropolitan Police Federation yesterday demanded an apology from politicians who had criticised them, and damaged their reputation.

Ken Marsh, Chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, said: “The outcome of this report comes as no surprise. We said on the very evening that politicians of all parties should make themselves aware of all the facts before rushing to judgement and making statements.

“But these armchair critics on their Saturday night sofas did not. The knee-jerk commentary from politicians of all parties – who as the report states were reacting to a snapshot on social media rather than the facts – has made the already difficult job of our colleagues in London incredibly harder. And more dangerous. And for that these people should be ashamed.

“As the independent report states: “Condemnation of the Met’s actions within mere hours of the vigil – including from people in positions of responsibility – was unwarranted, showed a lack of respect for public servants facing a complex situation, and undermined public confidence in policing based on very limited evidence.”

“We could not have said it better ourselves. This was outrageous behaviour from those who should know better and we trust as elected officials and we now call on these politicians to make themselves accountable and to apologise to our hard-working colleagues for the damage they have done.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “The Home Secretary received  the Inspectorate’s report this morning and is studying its findings closely.

“She is grateful to Sir Thomas Winsor, HMI Matt Parr and their team for conducting this review at speed. “She recognises that the police have done a difficult job throughout the pandemic and is grateful for their tireless work.”

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