The Metropolitan Police acted appropriately at the Sarah Everard vigil, an inspection of the Clapham Common event has found.
A report from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, Fire and Rescue Services, published today, said the force 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.
The investigation found police officers at the vigil did their best to peacefully disperse the crowd, that officers remained calm and professional when subjected to abuse; and that police officers did not act inappropriately or in a heavy-handed manner.
After examining hundreds of documents, hours of body-worn video from police officers and conducting interviews with officers, vigil organisers and politicians, the inspectorate found that the Met’s decision to prioritise consistency with their approach to policing other mass gatherings during the COVID-19 lockdown was right.
However, HMICFRS also found there was insufficient communication between police commanders about changing events on the ground at the event on Saturday 13 March.
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: “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 added: “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.”
To see the report in full, go to: https://www.