Unrepentant Met cops justify heavy-handed arrests at Sarah Everard vigil by claiming gathering had become an ‘anti-police protest’ and THEY felt ‘distress’ and at risk of violence
- Metropolitan Police officers have justified their Sarah Everard vigil crackdown
- Officers told court they feared Clapham Common vigil was turning ‘anti-police’
- They said they were given orders to break up the crowd using Covid powers
- Scotland Yard is prosecuting six people for alleged breaches of lockdown laws
Unrepentant Metropolitan Police officers justified their heavy-handed crackdown at a Clapham Common vigil held for Sarah Everard by claiming that the gathering was morphing into an ‘anti-police protest’, it has emerged.
Scotland Yard is prosecuting six people they claim broke Covid lockdown rules at the vigil on March 13 last year, when hundreds assembled at the bandstand in the South London park following Miss Everard’s kidnapping, rape and murder by ‘evil’ Met cop Wayne Couzens.
The event had originally been organised by Reclaim These Streets, who cancelled it after the Met said it should not go ahead, and no definitive answer on the matter was provided by the High Court.
But people turned up throughout the day, and officers did not intervene for the first six hours while many came to lay flowers, with the Duchess of Cambridge also paying her respects.
It has now emerged that police have defended their widely condemned actions, saying that they faced resistance when they tried to break up the gathering using draconian Covid powers.
Witness statements given in Westminster Magistrates’ Court reveal that the Met officers feared being attacked by the attendees and were apparently branded ‘murderers’ by some in the crowd.
According to PC Alexander Davis: ‘The mood of the crowd had also shifted from showing respect to Sarah Everard to anti-police protest. Over the course of the early evening the crowd size of the vigil increased to the 1000 strong members and it quickly became an anti-police demonstration.’
A woman being arrested at a vigil for Sarah Everard in Clapham Common, March 13, 2021
Left, Sarah Everard. Right, former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick
The Standard reports that he said Deputy Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist gave the order at around 7pm for the crackdown to begin, including arrests of women who were standing by the bandstand.
PC Darryl Mayne said in a witness statement that attendees shouted ‘go away’, ‘murderers’ and ‘arrest your own’ as the scene turned sour.
And in his statement to the court, Inspector Dave Laurie said: ‘I remember feeling sad that what started out as a vigil with people adhering to the coronavirus regulations had changed significantly and that I wasn’t convinced people were there to solely pay their respects in remembrance of Sarah Everard, and that they did not intend to leave the area any time soon.’
Wayne Couzens was given a whole life sentence at the Old Bailey in September after admitting Sarah Everard’s murder
MailOnline has contacted Scotland Yard for comment.
Campaigners have voiced their fury after it was revealed that four of the six cases will be heard in secret under the Single Justice Procedure, a paper-based process not held in open court.
Dania Al-Obeid, 27, from Stratford, east London, Vivien Hohmann, 20, from Clapham, Ben Wheeler, 21, from Kennington, south London, and Kevin Godin-Prior, 68, from Manchester, were all named on the court papers.
The Met said Jade Spence, 33, of Lambeth, and Jenny Edmunds, 32, of Lewisham, are due to be dealt with on June 15.
All six cases have been brought to court because the fines issued for alleged breaches of Covid rules were not paid, the force said.
A total of nine fixed penalty notices were issued. Two were paid, and the other was dropped with no further action.
The event had originally been organised by Reclaim These Streets, who cancelled it after the Met said it should not go ahead.
But people turned up throughout the day, and officers did not intervene for the first six hours while many came to lay flowers, with Kate Middleton also paying her respects.
However, when crowds refused to leave when asked by police, it led to clashes that saw protesters bundled to the ground and arrested.
The Met faced a barrage of criticism, including calls for Commissioner Cressida Dick to resign.
The decision to prosecute i nsecret was denounced by campaigners on social media, including Reclaim These Streets co-founder, Jamie Klingler.
Police stand in line at a Clapham Common vigil for Sarah Everard on March 13, 2021
She wrote: ‘Why does the Met Police have a vendetta against women protesting a woman killed by a serving officer? Is this payback that we helped get Cressida Dick removed from office? How is wasting more public money prosecuting women that attended the vigil going to rebuild trust?’.
Ruth Davison, CEO of the women’s charity Refuge, was also critical, saying: ‘We strongly disagree with this decision by the Met.
‘After their application to appeal the judgment against them brought by Reclaim These Streets was refused for the second time, they should have sensed the public temperature and ceased any further action.
‘With trust in police incredibly low, it is absurd that the force is attempting to prosecute individuals who attended a peaceful gathering for a young woman who was kidnapped and murdered by a serving officer.
‘The fact these attendees are facing prosecution for breaking the same Covid rules that Couzens used to kidnap and kill Sarah is something I cannot comprehend. It is a move that will do nothing to rebuild women’s trust in the police.
Well-wishers light candles around a tree on Clapham Common, March 13, 2021
‘The Met would be better advised to focus on improving the charging and prosecution rates for perpetrators of abuse and violence against women and girls and getting their own house in order.’
Earlier this year, the High Court ruled the Met had breached the rights of organisers at the vigil, but the unrepentant force refused to apologise over its much criticised handling, instead insisting it could appeal.
An utterly damning judgement said the constabulary ‘failed to perform its legal duty’ and did not think if the organisers ‘might have a reasonable excuse for holding the gathering’.
The ruling added the Met did not even ‘conduct the fact-specific proportionality assessment required in order to perform that duty’.
Scotland Yard was refused permission to appeal against the ruling for a second time.
Dismissing the appeal bid, Lord Justice Holroyde said in a court order that, while he recognised the application of principles guiding the right to protest ‘may be difficult for the police, and that the difficulty may be increased when considering a prospective event’ they were ‘clear’ and no separate guidance is needed.
The judge said he could see ‘no arguable basis on which it can be said that the (High) Court’s decision was wrong’.
Miss Everard was kidnapped, raped and murdered by Couzens. He was given a whole life sentence, from which he will never be released, at the Old Bailey in September after admitting murdering her.