Met Police chief will not step down over Everard vigil tactics


Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick says she will not step down over the policing tactics used at a vigil for Sarah Everard.

“What happened to Sarah appals me. I am the first woman commissioner of the Met – perhaps it appals me in a way even more because of that,” she said.

“What has happened makes me more determined, not less, to lead my organisation.”

It comes after the mayor of London said the police handling of the vigil on Clapham Common was “unacceptable” – and that he is “not satisfied” with the explanation he has received from the head of the Metropolitan Police.

The scenes of officers grabbing several women at the Saturday evening gathering and leading them away in handcuffs were widely criticised, including by politicians of all sides.

A Home Office spokesperson also said that Home Secretary Priti Patel had read the police report and “feels there are still questions to be answered”.

However, a Home Office source told Sky News that Ms Patel still has “full confidence” in Dame Cressida, despite calls for her resignation.

PA news agency reported that Prime Minister Boris Johnson also spoke to the commissioner on Sunday but there were no details on the content of their conversation.

The vigil had been planned by Reclaim These Streets, but the group cancelled the event after what they said were repeated attempts to negotiate with Scotland Yard about ways it could go ahead safely under coronavirus restrictions.

What had been a peaceful and sombre gathering during the afternoon turned sour and four arrests were made, with calls from London Mayor Sadiq Khan and Ms Patel for Dame Cressida to provide an explanation.

But, as hundreds of people gathered in protest outside Scotland Yard, Mr Khan said on Sunday: “I asked the commissioner and deputy commissioner to come into City Hall today to give me an explanation of yesterday’s events and the days leading up to them. I am not satisfied with the explanation they have provided.

“I will now be asking Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary to conduct a full independent investigation of events yesterday evening and in previous days. I am also asking the Independent Office for Police Conduct to investigate the actions of police officers yesterday evening.

“It is vital that these events are not allowed to undermine the powerful calls since Sarah’s murder for meaningful action to finally stop men inflicting violence on women. It was clear before yesterday that there isn’t adequate trust and confidence from women and girls in the police and criminal justice system more widely. Further steps must now be taken to address this.”

Mr Khan said the scenes arising from the policing of the vigil were “completely unacceptable”, adding: “I received assurances from the Metropolitan Police last week that the vigil would be policed sensitively. In my view, this was not the case.”

The home secretary has also asked Sir Thomas Winsor, Chief Inspector of Constabulary, to conduct a “lessons learned” review into the policing of the vigil.

On Sunday, Dame Cressida offered an explanation of the policing tactics, saying: “We’re still in a pandemic, unlawful gatherings are unlawful gatherings.

“Officers have to take action if people are putting themselves massively at risk.

“It’s worth saying, of course, I fully understand the strength of feeling I think as a woman hearing from people about their experiences in the past and what they feel about what happened to Sarah and what has been going on, I understand why so many people wanted to come and pay their respects and make a statement about this.

“Indeed, if it had been lawful, I’d have been there, I’d have been at a vigil. And six hours of yesterday was really calm and peaceful, very few police officers around, respectful, people laying flowers, not gathering, and a vigil that did not breach the regulations.

“Unfortunately, later on, we had a really big crowd that gathered, lots of speeches and quite rightly, as far as I can see, my team felt this is now an unlawful gathering which poses a considerable risk to people’s health according to the regulations.”

Meanwhile, the woman who was pictured being pinned to the ground by police in Clapham on Saturday night has said she is determined to hold another gathering on Monday.

Speaking to LBC on Sunday afternoon, Patsy Stevenson said she did not feel she had done anything wrong and was planning to attend a gathering in Parliament Square on Monday.

She said she wanted to push for change in the way women are treated, adding: “That’s the bare minimum we should feel the freedom to do, and I think it’s appalling that it’s gone on for this long and I think everyone needs to stand up to it and keep the ball rolling and get something actually changed.

“The main point is trying to get something changed within the system to educate people on how we can make women feel safe and just free to do what they want to do and live a normal life because there are so many things that we are unable to do without fear.”

Ms Stevenson said she had been fined £200 after her arrest on Saturday but was unsure why, adding: “I can’t speak for everyone that was there but I didn’t throw anything… the recollection of the night is a bit blurry, as you can understand, but I don’t recollect anyone pushing people unless it was in retaliation.

“They (the police) said something along the lines of ‘for breaching COVID rules’ but they didn’t make it entirely clear to me from the start.

“The weird thing was, I wasn’t actually surprised, which doesn’t say much really about the police force.”

(c) Sky News 2021: Met Police chief will not step down over Everard vigil tactics


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