Met Police chief will not step down over Everard vigil tactics

UK

The mayor of London has said the police handling of the vigil for Sarah Everard on Clapham Common was “unacceptable” – and that he is “not satisfied” with the explanation he has received from the head of the Metropolitan Police.

The scenes of officers grabbing several women at the Saturday evening gathering and leading them away in handcuffs were widely criticised, including by politicians of all sides.

The vigil had been planned by Reclaim These Streets, but the group cancelled the event after what they said were repeated attempts to negotiate with Scotland Yard about ways it could go ahead safely under coronavirus restrictions.

What had been a peaceful and sombre gathering during the afternoon turned sour and four arrests were made, with calls from Sadiq Khan and Home Secretary Priti Patel for the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick to provide an explanation.

But Mr Khan said on Sunday: “I asked the commissioner and deputy commissioner to come into City Hall today to give me an explanation of yesterday’s events and the days leading up to them. I am not satisfied with the explanation they have provided.

“I will now be asking Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary [HMIC] to conduct a full independent investigation of events yesterday evening and in previous days. I am also asking the Independent Office for Police Conduct [IOPC] to investigate the actions of police officers yesterday evening.

“It is vital that these events are not allowed to undermine the powerful calls since Sarah’s murder for meaningful action to finally stop men inflicting violence on women. It was clear before yesterday that there isn’t adequate trust and confidence from women and girls in the police and criminal justice system more widely. Further steps must now be taken to address this.”

Mr Khan said scenes of violence at the vigil were “completely unacceptable”, adding: “I can completely understand why women, girls and allies wanted to hold a vigil to remember Sarah and all women who have been subjected to violence or lost their lives at the hands of men, and to reclaim the public spaces where women are made to feel so unsafe.

“Last week I called on the government and police to work with the organisers of the vigil to clarify the law and find a way for it to take place legally and safely. On Friday a High Court judge made clear there was a window to agree a way for a vigil to go ahead safely.

“I received assurances from the Metropolitan Police last week that the vigil would be policed sensitively. In my view, this was not the case.”

Meanwhile, the home secretary has asked Sir Thomas Winsor, Chief Inspector of Constabulary, to conduct a “lessons learned” review into the policing of the vigil.

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