The Metropolitan Police’s handling of a vigil for Sarah Everard was “appropriate”, a report from the official policing inspectorate has concluded.
Home secretary Priti Patel ordered the review by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) after widespread outrage at scenes of police using force against mourners at the vigil on 13 March.
The memorial for the 33-year-old marketing executive, whose body was found a week after she went missing in London, went ahead despite police warning it would breach lockdown regulations.
The policing watchdog said it reviewed hundreds of documents and body-worn video from police officers at the vigil, and conducted interviews with the police, vigil organisers and politicians.
The report concluded that “the Metropolitan Police acted appropriately at the vigil held in memory of Sarah Everard on Clapham Common,” adding that it “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 Reclaim These Streets event had started off peacefully, with the Duchess of Cambridge among hundreds of people who turned up to lay flowers on the Common bandstand.
However, scenes soon turned sour when several women were forced to the ground and arrested as police officers attempted to break up crowds.
The report stated that “officers remained calm and professional when subjected to abuse” and “did not act inappropriately or in a heavy handed manner”.
It conceded that the force should have adopted “a more conciliatory response” in the wake of the vigil and that public confidence in the Met Police “suffered as a result” of its policing.
Met Police chief Dame Cressida Dick defied calls for her resignation following the vigil and defended the force’s actions.
It came despite a swathe of politicians, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson, condemning footage of the vigil as “deeply concerning”.
“The death of Sarah Everard must unite us in determination to drive out violence against women and girls and make every part of the criminal justice system work to protect and defend them,” the PM added.
London mayor Sadiq Khan said he accepted the findings of the report, while adding that it was “clear that trust and confidence of women and girls in the police and criminal justice system is far from adequate”.
“The events of the weekend of 13/14 March have done further damage to this and show that much more needs to be done,” he added. “I completely understand why women, girls and allies wanted to hold a vigil to remember Sarah at Clapham Common and show solidarity with all women who have been subjected to violence at the hands of men.”