Sadiq Khan calls for independent probe into policing of Sarah Everard vigil

14 March 2021, 15:24 | Updated: 14 March 2021, 19:32

Sadiq Khan has called for an independent probe into the policing of the Sarah Everard vigil
Sadiq Khan has called for an independent probe into the policing of the Sarah Everard vigil. Picture: PA Images
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Sadiq Khan has called for an independent investigation into the policing of the Sarah Everard vigil at Clapham Common on Saturday night.

Four people were arrested after several hundred gathered at Clapham Common on Saturday evening - despite official events being cancelled - to mourn the murder of the 33-year-old and highlight violence against women.

Critics of Metropolitan Police handling of the event, including the Mayor of London and Home Secretary Priti Patel, described officers as "manhandling" attendees and using a "disproportionate" use of force.

READ MORE: Met Police chief urged to resign after 'deeply disturbing' handling of Sarah Everard vigil

READ MORE: Woman arrested on ground at Sarah Everard vigil 'not surprised' at how police treated her

In a statement, the Mayor of London said: "The scenes arising from the policing of the vigil for Sarah Everard held on Clapham Common last night were completely unacceptable. My thoughts remain with Sarah's family at this awful time.

"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.

He continued: "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 to conduct a full independent investigation of events yesterday evening and in previous days. I am also asking the Independent Office for Police Conduct to investigate the actions of police officers yesterday evening.

READ MORE: Dame Cressida Dick rules out resignation over Sarah Everard vigil clash

"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."

It follows Liberal Democrats leader Ed Davey's call for Met Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick to resign, describing the arrests as "tone deaf".

He told LBC he expected Ms Patel and Mayor Khan not to "sweep it under the carpet" and for the Met to be thoroughly investigated.

"When we saw the scenes last night they were extremely disturbing," he said, "and they came on top of the back of a number of concerns that I'd had about the plans for the police approach to the vigil."

"After the High Court basically said that police had to make a decision about whether the vigil could go ahead, I spoke to to one or two colleagues, some of whom are senior ex-police officers, and they shared my concerns that policing had been totally disproportionate, inappropriate and that ultimately the buck had to stop with the Met Commissioner."

Commissioner Dick told reporters on Sunday that she would not be resigning over the controversy and that she would "have been at a vigil" if she thought it was lawful.

READ MORE: Thousands march to Parliament in protest against policing of Sarah Everard vigil

She said: "All the women and men of the Met are outraged at what has happened and they're working as hard as they can to get justice for Sarah.

"In that context, none of us would have wanted to see the scenes we saw at the end of yesterday's events.

"It's worth saying, of course, I fully understand the strength of feeling I think as a woman hearing from people about their experiences in the past and what they feel about what happened to Sarah and what has been going on, I understand why so many people wanted to come and pay their respects and make a statement about this.

"Unfortunately later on," she continued, "we had a really big crowd that gathered, lots of speeches and quite rightly, as far as I can see, my team felt this is now an unlawful gathering which poses a considerable risk to people's health according to the regulations."