Two women who were arrested at a vigil for murdered marketing executive Sarah Everard have secured payouts from the Metropolitan Police.
Patsy Stevenson and Dania Al-Obeid were detained at the event on Clapham Common in March 2021, held during Covid restrictions.
Anger at Everard’s murder by a serving police officer led to hundreds of people attending the event, including the Princess of Wales.
The Met was criticised for its heavy handling of the later stages of the vigil, when some women were bundled to the ground, and its “tone-deaf” response to the negative reaction afterwards.
“It has been a really tiring and difficult process but it has felt important to push for some form of accountability and justice for myself and all women who attended the vigil,” Stevenson said.
The event was originally planned by the campaign group Reclaim These Streets, which cancelled the protest after Met officers threatened organisers with £10,000 fines under lockdown rules in place at the time.
However members of the public attended anyway, with no police intervention for about six hours before clashes occurred.
Commander Karen Findlay wrote in letters to both women: “I wish to emphasise that I fully acknowledge that your motivations in attending the vigil were to express your grief and anger regarding the circumstances of the tragic murder of Sarah Everard, and to express the level of concern and dissatisfaction felt by you and many other women who were understandably feeling badly let down by the Met.
“The policing plan for the vigil was devised to provide an opportunity for members of the public to attend in order to express their grief and anger.
“Acknowledging that the fundamental right to protest remained, the circumstances at the time of the vigil — namely that we were in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic — presented an extremely difficult challenge for policing and the officers present due to the need to balance the potential risk such a gathering could pose to public health.
“That aside, I appreciate the anger, frustration and alarm your arrest undoubtedly caused you, exacerbated by the subsequent proceedings, and I regret that your opportunity to express your grief and anger was curtailed by your arrest and removal.”
A legal battle rumbled on long after the vigil with the original organisers successfully arguing that their right to protest had been breached by the Met.
“I appreciate that the Met police have acknowledged our motivations for attending it but ‘badly let down’ is an understatement,” Al-Obeid said. “I have felt abused, abandoned by the police prior to, during and post the vigil — I do not feel protected or safe with any police force.”
Rachel Harger from Bindmans LLP, representing the women, said: “I am glad that the Met have finally acknowledged that those who attended the vigil had the fundamental right to protest [about] the murder of Sarah Everard by a serving Met officer.
“Protests are as vital as they have ever been: without them, injustices will be unchallenged and people will lose confidence in democratic processes by which things can change.”
(Source: The Times)