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Met Police breached rights of Sarah Everard vigil organisers with its handling of event, High Cou…

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Met Police breached rights of Sarah Everard vigil organisers with its handling of event, High Court judges rule

  • High Court judge said Met Police breached rights of those at Sarah Everard vigil
  • Force considered ‘perceived reputational risk’, rather than public health, was key
  • Disastrous police intervention saw pictures of them handcuffing women go viral
  • Wayne Couzens fake arrested Sarah before handcuffing, raping and killing her 

The Metropolitan Police breached the rights of organisers of a vigil for Sarah Everard with its handling of the planned event, High Court judges have ruled.

Hundreds attended the vigil in south-west London to pay their respects to 33-year-old Ms Everard, who was killed after disappearing while walking home.

The event had originally been organised by Reclaim These Streets, who cancelled it after the Met said it should not go ahead, and no definitive answer on the matter was provided by the High Court.

But people turned up throughout the day, and officers did not intervene for the first six hours while many came to lay flowers, with the Duchess of Cambridge also paying her respects.

Patsy Stevenson, who went viral after she was pictured being held on the ground by officers,

Patsy Stevenson, who went viral after she was pictured being held on the ground by officers,

Sarah Everard, who was raped and murdered by serving Met officer Wayne Couzens

Sarah Everard, who was raped and murdered by serving Met officer Wayne Couzens

Cressida Dick's Met Police said it acted properly. She has now resigned and will be replaced

Cressida Dick’s Met Police said it acted properly. She has now resigned and will be replaced

By the evening, hundreds of people had gathered and refused to leave when asked by police, leading to clashes that saw protesters bundled to the ground and arrested.

The Met faced a barrage of criticism, including calls for Commissioner Cressida Dick to resign.

Four women, who founded RTS and planned the vigil, brought a legal challenge against the force over its handling of the event, which was also intended to be a protest about violence against women.

At a two-day hearing in January, Jessica Leigh, Anna Birley, Henna Shah and Jamie Klingler argued that decisions made by the force in advance of the planned vigil amounted to a breach of their human rights to freedom of speech and assembly, and say the force did not assess the potential risk to public health.

Well-wishers light candles around a tree in honour of Sarah Everard on Clapham Common, south London on March 13

Well-wishers light candles around a tree in honour of Sarah Everard on Clapham Common, south London on March 13

The High Court was told that senior officers in the force considered that ‘perceived reputational risk’, rather than public health, was the biggest ‘threat’ when the force decided to ‘effectively veto’ the vigil.

The Met defended the claim and argued there was no exception for protest in the coronavirus rules at the time and it had ‘no obligation’ to assess the public health risk.

Lord Justice Warby and Mr Justice Holgate are now due to give their ruling on the case on Friday morning.

The four women asked for a declaration that their human rights were breached and are seeking £7,500 in damages, which they will donate to a charity concerned with violence against women if they are successful.

They withdrew from organising the vigil after being told by the force they would face fines of £10,000 each and possible prosecution if the event went ahead, the court heard.

A spontaneous vigil and protest took place instead – over which the force was heavily criticised for its actions, but later cleared by a police watchdog.

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