Cressida Dick considered sending all-female unit to Sarah Everard vigil, MPs hear

11 May 2021, 20:36 | Updated: 11 May 2021, 21:32

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Dame Cressida Dick considered sending an all-female unit to monitor the Sarah Everard vigil in south London, MPs have heard.

The Metropolitan Police Commissioner defended the force's handling of the event at Clapham Common on March 13 as she faced questions from the Commons Home Affairs Committee.

She said while a female police support unit was considered for the vigil, it was not "practical" at such short notice and the idea had since been "hugely divisive" among officers.

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The Met faced a barrage of criticism, including calls for Dame Cressida to resign, after protesters were bundled to the ground and arrested.

Nine people were arrested at the event in memory of murdered 33-year-old Ms Everard, and it was thought to have been attended by around 1,500 people at its peak.

Dame Cressida told the Home Affairs Committee on Tuesday: "I personally did consider, and I know my gold commander did consider, well I did the day before whether there was an argument for creating...

"It has been suggested since, that everything would have been better and different if we had an all-female police support units as we call them, the public order trained officers.

"Two issues. One, not practical for us to do that, certainly at such short notice.

"Secondly, it's hugely divisive amongst my people.

"I have subsequently taken a straw poll, and men and women alike are really not keen on this idea, that when you have a primarily female rally or protest that we will only send women into that.

"But it was considered, it was not practical and we didn't do it".

Dame Cressida said it would be "wrong to say" there was an "unusual number" of male police officers at the vigil, adding: "It was proportionate to our public order resources."

An official report from the watchdog, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services, backed the Met's handling of the event and found no evidence of heavy-handedness.

But it criticised the force's "tone deaf" response to criticism of the way it dealt with protesters, saying the Met should have taken a more conciliatory approach.

It comes as London mayor Sadiq Khan revealed he had appointed Claire Waxman as the capital's first Victims' Commissioner in a bid to "improve the trust and confidence women have in the criminal justice system".

He tweeted: "I'm committed to ensuring that women and girls feel safe in our city.

"That's why I'm investing a record £60.7 million to help address the attitudes that can lead to violence and to support victims."