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Met to appeal against ruling rights of Sarah Everard vigil organisers breached

Met to appeal against ruling rights of Sarah Everard vigil organisers breached
Two senior judges found the Met’s decisions in the run-up to the planned event were ‘not in accordance with the law’.

The Metropolitan Police said it will appeal against a High Court ruling that it breached the rights of organisers of a vigil for Sarah Everard.

Reclaim These Streets (RTS) planned the socially-distanced vigil for 33-year-old Ms Everard, who was murdered by serving Met officer Wayne Couzens, near to where she went missing in Clapham, south London, last March.

In a ruling earlier this month, two senior judges found the Met’s decisions in the run-up to the planned event were “not in accordance with the law”.

Scotland Yard said on Friday it had “taken time to consider” the ruling and wants to “resolve what’s required by law when policing protests and events”.

It’s important for policing and the public that we have absolute clarity of what’s expected of us in law

Met Police

In an unusual move, London mayor Sadiq Khan spoke out to say he is “extremely concerned” about the force’s decision to appeal.

“The abduction and murder of Sarah Everard by a serving police officer has massively damaged the confidence of Londoners, particularly women and girls, in the police,” a spokesman for Mr Khan said.

“In the wake of such a horrendous crime, the policing of the vigil in her memory eroded trust even further,” he added.

Mr Khan will raise his concerns with outgoing Met commissioner Dame Cressida Dick, the spokesman added.

A statement from the Met said: “It’s absolutely right that we are held to account for our actions and that there is proper scrutiny of the decisions we make as a police force in upholding legislation and maintaining public order.

“We also respect the strong views held by Reclaim These Streets in defence of human rights and public protest, and their pursuit of justice for these views.

“As an organisation, we work with, support and police hundreds of protests and events across London every day and take our responsibilities under the Human Rights Act in doing so very seriously.

“It’s important for policing and the public that we have absolute clarity of what’s expected of us in law.

“This is why we feel we must seek permission to appeal the judgment in order to resolve what’s required by law when policing protests and events in the future.”

Reclaim These Streets founders outside the Royal Courts of Justice, after judges ruled the Met Police beached the rights of the organisers of a planned vigil for Sarah Everard with its handling of the planned event (Yui Mok/PA)
Reclaim These Streets founders outside the Royal Courts of Justice, after judges ruled the Met Police beached the rights of the organisers of a planned vigil for Sarah Everard with its handling of the planned event (Yui Mok/PA)

RTS co-founder Jessica Klingler was among those to express anger at the announcement and accused the force of wanting to “exhaust us”.

“I’m not going to pretend I am not furious,” she tweeted.

She added: “They want us to give up. They want to exhaust us. F*** that. Learn the law.”

Activist Patsy Stevenson, who was pictured being detained at the vigil in a photograph widely shared, tweeted: “Still can’t hold themselves accountable.”

Ms Klingler and the three other women who founded RTS brought a legal challenge against the force over its handling of the event, which was also intended to be a protest about violence against women.

They withdrew from organising after being told by the force they would face fines of £10,000 each and possible prosecution if it went ahead, given pandemic-related curbs on freedom that were in place at the time, with a spontaneous vigil and protest taking place instead.

Jessica Leigh, Anna Birley, Henna Shah and Ms Klingler argued that decisions made by the force in advance of the planned vigil amounted to a breach of their human rights to freedom of speech and assembly, and said the force did not assess the potential risk to public health.

Upholding their claim, the High Court found the Met had “failed to perform its legal duty” to consider whether the women might have a reasonable excuse for holding the gathering.

Couzens, 49, was given a whole life sentence at the Old Bailey in September after admitting Ms Everard’s murder.