Metropolitan Police acted appropriately at the Sarah Everard vigil
The Metropolitan Police acted appropriately at the vigil held in memory of Sarah Everard on Clapham Common, a new inspection has found.
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HMICFRS 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.
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 that:
- police officers at the vigil did their best to peacefully disperse the crowd;
- police officers remained calm and professional when subjected to abuse; and
- police officers did not act inappropriately or in a heavy-handed manner.
However, HMICFRS also found there was insufficient communication between police commanders about changing events on the ground.
The inspectorate said that public confidence in the Metropolitan Police suffered as a result of the vigil, and that given the impact of images of women under arrest – which were widely disseminated on social media – a more conciliatory response after the event might have served the Met’s interests better.
Sir Thomas Winsor, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary, said:
“My thoughts are with Sarah Everard’s family and friends, who are suffering the most unthinkable pain.
“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:
“On behalf of everyone who worked on this inspection, I send our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Sarah Everard, who have suffered an unimaginable tragedy.
“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.”
HMICFRS found that an event on Clapham Common could have taken place because the right to protest remains even during the pandemic. However, it said planning a COVID-friendly event at Clapham Common was not realistic because of the high number of people expected to attend and the limited time available to plan the event.
The inspectorate concluded that, in this case, the Met’s decision to prioritise consistency with their approach to policing other mass gatherings during the COVID-19 lockdown was right.
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- HMICFRS was commissioned by both the Home Secretary and the Mayor of London to inspect the Metropolitan Police Service’s handling of the Sarah Everard vigil. Their commissioning letters have been published on our website. The commissions were made under section 54 of the Police Act 1996.
- For further information, please contact the HMICFRS Press Office from 09:00 – 17:00 Monday to Friday on 07836 217 729
- For urgent out-of-hours media enquiries, please contact 07836 217 729.