Reclaim These Streets claims police initially supported the event but they have now been warned of fines and criminal prosecution (Picture: Getty/Reclaim These Streets)
Organisers of a vigil for Sarah Everard are launching a legal challenge after the Metropolitan Police told them holding the event would be unlawful and warned they could face ‘tens of thousands of pounds in fines and criminal prosecution’.
A socially distanced vigil for all women who ‘feel unsafe on the streets and face violence every day’ is planned to take place at 6pm in Clapham Common, south London this Saturday.
A spokeswoman for Reclaim These Streets said they initially received a positive reception from police but officers have since reversed their position amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The group has accused police of ‘silencing thousands of women like us who want to honour Sarah’s memory and stand up for our right to feel safe on our streets’.
A Met Police spokesperson told Metro.co.uk they were ‘still in discussion’ with the organisers and ‘understand the public’s strength of feeling’ on Ms Everard’s disappearance.
Detectives searching for the ‘kind and strong’ marketing executive discovered human remains in Ashford, Kent, on Wednesday. They have not yet been identified.
Met police officer Wayne Couzens, 48, has been arrested on suspicion of kidnap and murder. He was taken to hospital after being found collapsed in his cell last night but has now been discharged.
A spokeswoman for the Reclaim These Streets group said it will seek an order in the High Court on Friday challenging the Metropolitan Police’s interpretation of coronavirus restrictions when read against human rights law.
The marketing executive was last seen in Clapham, south London, on 3 March (Picture: Met Police)
Serving Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens has been arrested on suspicion of murder (Picture: Kent Messenger / SWNS)
In a statement, they said they were ‘always aware of the challenges of organising a Covid-secure vigil, but safety has been a top priority from the beginning’.
It read: ‘When we initially proposed the event, we proactively reached out to Lambeth Council and Metropolitan Police to ensure that the event could safely and legally take place.
‘After initially receiving a positive response, we continued to plan and promote the event and continued to update the Council and Police.
‘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.’
Officers can break up illegal gatherings and issue fines of £10,000 for someone holding a gathering of over 30 people as a stay a home order remains in place amid the third national lockdown.
Human rights lawyers have written to the force telling them they are wrong in their interpretation of the law and that ‘socially distant, outdoor gathering of this kind are allowed under the current lockdown regulations, when read together with the Human Rights Act’.
Speaking on behalf of Reclaim These Streets, Caitlin Prowle said they will be forced to cancel the event if the legal challenge is lost.
The group has raised more than £30,000 through an online campaign to cover potential legal costs. Extra funds will be donated to a women’s charity if they win the challenge.
A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police 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.’
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