THE MET Police’s decision to ban a vigil for Sarah Everard has been upheld by the High Court forcing organisers to cancel the event.
A High Court judge has refused to intervene in the legal battle between the organisers of Sarah Everard’s vigil and Met Police.
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Sarah Everard, 33, went missing last week – sparking concerns across the capitalCredit: AFP
Search crews seen inspecting Clapham Common last weekCredit: PA:Press Association
Reclaim These Streets mounted a High Court challenge today, claiming the Met reversed the decision to permit Saturday’s event in London in an attempt to ban it.
Campaigners for the vigil sought a declaration on the “correct legal position” over the current lockdown laws which neither ban nor allow protests.
Mr Justice Holgate said it would not be “appropriate for the court” to make the declaration sought.
He ruled that “the requirements of the law have been clearly stated” in previous court rulings, including a challenge to Covid-19 lockdown rules brought by businessman Simon Dolan, which was dismissed by the Court of Appeal in December.
The judge also said: “Given what has happened at the hearing, it may well be that there will be further communication between the claimants and the solicitors they instruct and the police to deal with the application of the regulations and (the rights to freedom of expression and assembly) to this particular event.”
Reclaim These Streets said it had received a positive response after they approached the Met Police and Lambeth Council over holding a vigil on Saturday.
However, Met Police later changed their position saying the event would be unlawful and that the organisers would face a £10,000 fine under new coronavirus laws.
The group has raised £30,000 to cover legal costs, with donations still pouring in.
Hundreds were expected to join the special vigil for Sarah after the 33-year-old vanished off the streets of the capital.
Last night, Reclaim The Streets said in a statement: “The Metropolitan Police said that they were ‘trying to navigate a way through’ and that they were ‘currently developing a local policing plan’ to allow the vigil to take place and to enable them to ‘develop an appropriate and proportionate local response’ to the event.
“Since this statement, the Metropolitan Police have reversed their position and stated that the vigil would be unlawful and that, as organisers, we could face tens of thousands of pounds in fines and criminal prosecution under the Serious Crimes Act.”
It comes as…
Yesterday Labour MP Harriet Harman, QC, wrote to the Met backing the “perfectly lawful” event.
Vigils were also due to take place at 6pm in cities across the UK – including Liverpool, Leeds, Birmingham, Belfast and Cardiff.
Anna Burley told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We proactively wrote to the police and the local council.
“Initially, we had feedback that they were looking at ways to navigate this, that they would be looking at how they could proportionately and appropriately provide community policing to the event.
“And we were in conversation about how we could do that safely so that people could express their anger and their grief without putting themselves or others at risk.
“We then had an about-face mid-afternoon yesterday.
“We were being put under increasing pressure that individually, we would be at risk for doing so, but as would everybody who attended and all of the women across the country potentially who have been organising sister vigils in their own areas.”
A Met Police spokesman said: “We understand the public’s strength of feeling and are aware of the statement issued by Reclaim The Streets with regard to a planned vigil for Sarah Everard in Clapham Common this weekend.
“We remain in discussion with the organisers about this event in light of the current Covid regulations.”
The vigil was supposed be hosted on Saturday
Sarah Everard was walking home when she vanished last week – and is not believed to have known suspect Wayne Couzens before her disappearanceCredit: PA:Press Association
The Reclaim These Streets marches were designed to show that women should feel safe no matter the time of day.
Organisers said: “It’s wrong that the response to violence against women requires women to behave differently. In Clapham, police told women not to go out at night this week. Women are not the problem.
“We’ve all been following the tragic case of Sarah Everard over the last week. This is a vigil for Sarah, but also for all women who feel unsafe, who go missing from our streets and who face violence every day.”
Earlier today, the Prime Minister said he could “totally understand” why the death of Sarah triggered a “wave of feeling” on the issue of women’s safety.
“I think that the whole country will be united in their feeling for her friends, her family and will share their shock and their grief,” Boris Johnson said at Queen’s University Belfast.
“I can see, and I totally understand, why this has triggered such a wave of feeling on this issue – on the issue of safety of women and safety of the streets.”
But police may have failed to act and arrest Couzens over the accusation of indecent exposure at a fast food take away in South London.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct announced it is investigating the Met over the apparent failure to act on the indecent exposure report.
The apparent police blunder over the alleged indecent exposure emerged after Couzens was found unconscious in custody with a “serious” head injury and taken to hospital yesterday.
Cop Wayne Couzens, 48, has been arrested on suspicion of abduction and murderCredit: SWNS:South West News Service
The police watchdog last night announced they are also investigating the Met Police over the injury sustained by Couzens.
Sarah’s family yesterday paid tribute to their “bright and beautiful daughter and sister”.
In a statement, Sarah’s family said: “Our beautiful daughter Sarah was taken from us and we are appealing for any information that will help to solve this terrible crime.
“Sarah was bright and beautiful – a wonderful daughter and sister. She was kind and thoughtful, caring and dependable. She always put others first and had the most amazing sense of humour.
“She was strong and principled and a shining example to us all. We are very proud of her and she brought so much joy to our lives.
“We would like to thank our friends and family for all their support during this awful time and we would especially like to thank Sarah’s friends who are working tirelessly to help.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “shocked and deeply saddened by the developments in the Sarah Everard investigation”, adding “we must work fast to find all the answers to this horrifying crime”.
Sarah Everard went missing a week ago and human remains have now been foundCredit: PA:Press Association
Couzens is being quizzed by police over Sarah’s disappearanceCredit: SWNS:South West News Service
Cops have conducted extensive searches over the past weekCredit: PA:Press Association
Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “I am deeply saddened by the developments in the Sarah Everard investigation. My heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with Sarah, her family and friends at this unbearable time.
“Many women have shared their stories and concerns online since Sarah’s disappearance last week. These are so powerful because each and every woman can relate.
“Every woman should feel safe to walk on our streets without fear of harassment or violence.
“At this deeply sad and tragic time as we think and pray for Sarah and her family, I will continue through my role to do all I can to protect women and girls from violence and harassment.”
The first Reclaim These Streets protest is organised on Clapham Common, near to where the Durham University grad was last seen alive.
She vanished without a trace on March 3, and a huge police manhunt has been scrambled to find her.
She disappeared after leaving a friend’s house in Leathwaite Road, Clapham, at about 9pm that day.
She was thought to be making the 50-minute walk to her home in Brixton, where she lives alone.
Detectives believe she walked over Clapham Common and was seen on CCTV about halfway through the journey, on the A205 Poynders Road at 9.30pm.
She had been on the phone with her boyfriend Josh Lowth, also 33, for 15 minutes.
After that her phone loses signal or is switched off.
She was not seen on CCTV further down the road, or by her flat in Brixton.
‘WE DESERVE TO BE SAFE’
The case has ignited sadness and fury among women – who do not feel safe at night.
Organiser of Saturday’s vigil Jamie Klingler said: “Every WhatsApp group I am in is filled with dread over Sarah Everard.
“All of us are replaying the millions of times we, as urban adults, have walked home at night.
“That we have taken for granted that we deserve to be safe.
“My heart is breaking for her family.”
Author Elif Shafak joined the protest: “Every woman should be able to walk home safely without fear.
“Stop telling women to change their behaviour.
“It is this awful misogyny that needs to be abolished.
“We need structural, legal, progressive change to protect women and girls, not empty words.”
If you have any information at all about Sarah’s disappearance please call 0208 785 8244 – or contact @CrimestoppersUK anonymously on 0800 555 111.