Met Police backed for handling of Sarah Everard vigil by watchdog
Police officers were not heavy handed and remained “calm and professional” during the Sarah Everard vigil, a watchdog has found.
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) was called in to examine the force’s actions after women who attended the event on March 13 were bundled to the ground and arrested.
The examination found that officers at the event did their best to peacefully disperse the crowd and did not act inappropriately, remaining calm and professional when subjected to abuse.
The HMICFRS said it was unrealistic to hold a Covid-safe event on the common in light of the numbers of people who would attend and the short time available, and the force was right to conclude that the health risks of holding a vigil were too great.
However, it said there was insufficient communication between police commanders about changing events on the ground.
Sir Thomas Winsor, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary, said: “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: “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.”
Home Secretary Priti Patel commissioned HMICFRS to look into the police’s handling of the even in wake of criticism from the public.
Organisers Reclaim These Streets cancelled their vigil planned on Clapham Common on March 13, but crowds gathered anyway leading to scenes of unrest between protesters and the police.