BREAKING: Police did NOT ‘act inappropriately’ and were not ‘heavy-handed’ at Sarah Everard vigil on Clapham Common, official review says
- Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary probed circumstances of the event
- They backed the police over their actions at the gathering despite criticism
- Shocking images of the vigil showed woman being restrained and arrested
A review into the Metropolitan Police’s handling of a vigil in memory of Sarah Everard has backed officers and insisted they ‘did not act inappropriately or in a heavy-handed manner’.
The report by the Chief Inspector of Constabulary Sir Thomas Winsor found the force was justified in adopting the view the risks of transmitting COVID-19 at the vigil were too great to ignore when planning for and policing the event.
But Sir Thomas’s probe on behalf of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services did criticise communication between police commanders about changing events on the ground.
The review came after the vigil descended into chaos with scenes unfolding showing officers restraining women at the gathering.
Sir Thomas appeared to largely absolve them of any blame, adding: ‘My thoughts are with Sarah Everard’s family and friends, who are suffering the most unthinkable pain.
Patsy Stevenson was arrested by police at the vigil in memory of murdered Sarah Everard
Sarah Everard, 33, went missing on March 3. A police officer has been charged with murder
‘The commissions I received from the Home Secretary and the Mayor of London to inspect the Metropolitan Police’s handling of the vigil for Sarah Everard on Clapham Common have been fulfilled. This has been a rapid but detailed inspection.
‘Public confidence in the police is critical. It is therefore important that there has been an independent, objective, evidence-based inspection to provide public reassurance, which we provide today.
‘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.’
Matt Parr, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary, who led the inspection team, said condemnation of the Met’s actions was ‘unwarranted’.
He said: ‘Amidst a heightened public debate on women’s safety, and during an unprecedented pandemic, the Metropolitan Police faced a complex and sensitive policing challenge at Clapham Common.
‘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.
‘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.
‘A minute’s silence was held for Sarah at 6pm, after which a peaceful and sombre vigil turned into something else – a rally with dense crowds and little or no social distancing.
‘We concluded that the Met was right to recognise the need to be seen to be consistent in its policing of all events and gatherings. They were, therefore, right to enforce the regulations – having gone to some lengths to persuade people to disperse.’