Metropolitan Police acted 'appropriately' at vigil held in memory of Sarah Everard, inspection finds

The Metropolitan Police acted "appropriately" at the vigil held in memory of Sarah Everard on Clapham Common, London, a new inspection has found.

The death of Sarah Everard, who grew up in York, continues to prompt much national soul-searching.

The report, by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Service (HMICFRS), found 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.

Sir Thomas Winsor, the Chief Inspector of Constabulary, stated the Met "did not act inappropriately or in a heavy-handed manner".

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After reviewing hundreds of documents, body-worn video from police officers at the vigil and other media, and conducting interviews with the police, vigil organisers and politicians, the inspector also found that police officers at the vigil did their best to peacefully disperse the crowd and they remained calm and professional when subjected to abuse.

Sir Winsor 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.

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Matt Parr, Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary, who led the inspection team, said condemnation of the Met's actions was "unwarranted".

He 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.

"We concluded that the Met was right to recognise the need to be seen to be consistent in its policing of all events and gatherings. They were, therefore, right to enforce the regulations - having gone to some lengths to persuade people to disperse."

Marketing executive Sarah Everard,originally from York, went missing while walking home from a friend’s flat in south London on March 3.

Serving Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens, 48, has been charged with kidnap and murder.