Met Police 'acted appropriately' at Sarah Everard vigil, review finds

30 March 2021, 11:43 | Updated: 30 March 2021, 13:10

The police were criticised after breaking up Sarah Everard's vigil.
The police were criticised after breaking up Sarah Everard's vigil. Picture: PA
  • Review finds officers "did their best" to peacefully disperse people at the vigil
  • Police were justified thinking the event represented a risk of transmitting Covid-19
  • Officers did not act in a heavy-handed way
  • Inspectors criticised condemnation of the Met "from people in positions of responsibility"

By Will Taylor

The Metropolitan Police acted appropriately at the Sarah Everard vigil, a review by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary has found.

The review found that the Metropolitan Police was "justified in adopting the view that the risks of transmitting COVID-19 at the vigil were too great to ignore when planning for and policing the event."

Met Commissioner Cressida Dick had faced calls to resign over the policing of the event, which saw officers break up the commemoration of the 33-year-old marketing executive on March 13.

She went missing on March 3, and her remains were found a week later.

Reclaim These Streets, which had organised the vigil before cancelling it, criticised the findings and said the "disregard for us as women organisers in the report is clear".

Matt Parr, who led the inspection team, said: "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."

After reviewing "hundreds of documents, body-worn video from police officers at the vigil and other media, and conducting interviews with the police, vigil organisers and politicians", the inspectorate found police did their best to peacefully disperse the crowd.

It also said officers remained calm "when subjected to abuse" and "did not act inappropriately or in a heavy-handed manner".

He added: "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."

Sarah Everard went missing earlier in March, sparking a vigil.
Sarah Everard went missing earlier in March, sparking a vigil. Picture: PA

Read more: Duchess of Cambridge 'sends personal message to family of Sarah Everard'

Sir Thomas Winsor, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary, said: "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."

In a Twitter statement, Reclaim These Streets said: "We anticipated a fair and balanced inquiry and are instead being told not to believe what we saw and heard reported two weeks ago."

It said the inspectorate "had a responsibility to begin rebuilding the trust between women and girls across the capital and the Metropolitan Police".

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