However, police have also faced criticism for not adopting a sufficiently “conciliatory” approach in the face of criticism. The review by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS), led by Sir Thomas Winsor, also found the force was “justified” in taking the view the risks of Covid-19 transmission were “too great to ignore”.
Sir Thomas, the 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.”
The watchdog concluded officers at the event did their best to peacefully disperse the crowd, remained calm and professional when subjected to abuse, and did not act inappropriately or in a heavy-handed manner.
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 the health risks of holding a vigil were too great, HMICFRS found.
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But crowds gathered anyway leading to ugly clashes between protesters and police who had gathered near the bandstand.
Home Secretary Priti Patel commissioned HMICFRS to look at the force’s handling of the event.
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.”
Sarah, 33, went missing after walking home from a friend’s house earlier this month.
Her remains were found days later in woodland close to Ashford in Kent.
Serving Met Poilice officer Wayne Couzens has since been charged with her kidnap and murder.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson was among those who voiced his concern at angry confrontations between police and protesters.