Dania Al-Obeid and Patsy Stevenson were both arrested by police officers at the event on Clapham Common in March 2021, ten days after Ms Everard was kidnapped, raped and murdered by police officer Wayne Couzens.
Scotland Yard faced nationwide outrage over its holding of the vigil as women, including Ms Stevenson, were abused and pinned to the ground by police, while the force faced intense criticism over the safety of women on the streets of London.
A vigil planned for that day by the Reclaims These Streets group had been effectively blocked by the Met after police threatened organizers with £10,000 Covid fines.
In the middle of nowhere, an impromptu meeting nevertheless took place – in the presence of the Princess of Wales – and the Met was then accused of being stubborn and “deaf” to public anger over the Couzens case and general misogyny in the police ranks.
The two women sued the Met over the incident in a legal dispute that was ended by the apology and agreement to pay damages.
“I would like to emphasize that I fully recognize that your motivation for attending the vigil was to express your sadness and anger at the circumstances of the tragic murder of Sarah Everard and to express the level of concern and dissatisfaction to bring to light the feelings you and many other women who understandably felt badly let down by the Met,” said Commander Karen Findlay.
“The police plan for the vigil was developed to give the public an opportunity to express their grief and anger.
“Given that the fundamental right to protest remained, the circumstances at the time of the vigil – namely that we were in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic – presented an extremely difficult challenge for the police and the officers in attendance to consider what was needed was the potential risk such a gathering could pose to public health.
“That said, I appreciate the anger, frustration and concern that your arrest has undoubtedly caused you, which has been heightened by the subsequent proceedings, and I regret that your opportunity to express your grief and anger has been undermined by yours Arrest and deportation were restricted.”
In the months following the vigil, Couzens was jailed for the rest of his life for Ms Everard’s murder and there were further legal proceedings surrounding the handling of the incident.
A Supreme Court case concluded that the Reclaim These Streets vigil had been unlawfully blocked by the Met.
And Ms Al-Obeid was prosecuted for her participation in the vigil, where she was accused of breaking Covid lockdown rules. The criminal case was heard in a closed court without her knowledge and her conviction and fine were ultimately overturned.
“I found this journey incredibly difficult but very important as a survivor of domestic violence and as someone who has been let down by the police in this context,” Ms Al-Obeid said.
“I felt empowered to hold the police accountable for how they treated me and other women who attended the vigil. I really feel like through this process I’ve found my voice and finally feel like I’m being heard.”
“I appreciate that the Met Police recognized our reasons for taking part, but ‘severely disappointing’ is an understatement.
“I felt mistreated and abandoned by the police before, during and after the vigil – I don’t feel protected or safe with any police.”
Ms Al-Obeid said she believed the Met should no longer be at the forefront of dealing with domestic or sexual violence and called on police to open themselves up to scrutiny of their inner workings.
Baroness Casey’s recent review of the Met ended with a damning assessment of racism, misogyny and homophobia in the ranks.
The review also found that police had “failed to recognize the significance of Sarah Everard’s murder, why there was so much anger and sadness and their own role in it.”
“Their own revulsion at the murder of Sarah Everard did not extend to recognizing how much the women of London felt let down by the Met itself, nor how important it is to allow people to have their own lives Expressing sadness and anger about it. “This tendency to focus inwardly, on one’s own feelings and one’s officers, and not seeing or accepting things from other perspectives, is a recurring feature of the Met culture.”
Ms Stevenson said today: “I am pleased that the police have recognized that we have a fundamental right to protest, but since then that right has been further eroded and undermined by public order law.”
“It is our politicians who have rewarded the Met with greater police powers, despite the murder of Sarah Everard and the policing of the vigil which exposed deep-rooted misogyny within the Met Police on an international level.”
The two women brought their legal claim with the help of Bindmans’ lawyers and lawyers Jude Bunting KC and Pippa Woodrow.
In a statement, a Met Police spokesperson said: “The vigil on Clapham Common took place in extraordinary circumstances, in the midst of a pandemic with restrictions on gatherings in place for very legitimate public health reasons, and in the days immediately following the most horrific murder of Sarah Everard by a serving Met officer.
“We have sought to strike a balance that recognizes the public’s right to protest and express their grief and sorrow, while continuing to enforce relevant Covid laws.
“The actions of individual officers were found to be appropriate by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary. They acted in good faith and interpreted complex and changing laws in very difficult circumstances in a manner entirely consistent with that of their colleagues then working across London.
“A protracted legal dispute is not in the interests of either party, and certainly not in the interests of the complainants we recognize, who have already suffered considerable distress as a result of this incident.
“The most appropriate decision to minimize the ongoing impact on all parties involved was to reach a mutual agreement.”
https://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/met-police-apology-damages-women-arrested-sarah-everard-vigil-b1106876.html The Met Police apologize and pay compensation to women arrested at vigil for Sarah Everard