Met Police says it will APPEAL High Court ruling after two senior judges found the force breached the rights of Sarah Everard vigil organisers
- Two senior judges found the Met’s planning was ‘not in accordance with the law’
- Organisers had arranged a socially-distanced vigil for Sarah in March 2021
- The Met said today they will appeal to provide clarity over the law
The Metropolitan Police has said it will appeal a High Court ruling that it breached rights over the Sarah Everard vigil in Clapham Common,.
In a ruling on March 11, two senior judges found the Met’s decisions in the run-up to the planned event were ‘not in accordance with the law’.
Reclaim These Streets (RTS) had planned the socially-distanced vigil for 33-year-old Ms Everard, who was murdered by former Met officer Wayne Couzens, near to where she went missing in Clapham, south London, in March last year.
Police detain Patsy Stevenson as people gather at a memorial site in London’s Clapham Common park following the kidnap-murder of Sarah Everard
The force said in a statement on Friday it had ‘taken time to consider’ the decision but that it wanted to ‘resolve what’s required by law when policing protests and events’ in future.
‘Following the High Court judgment issued on Friday, 11 March the Met has taken time to consider with great care the decision itself and the wider implications for policing,’ the statement read.
‘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.
The vigil was held for 33-year-old Ms Everard
‘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.’
RTS co-founder Jamie Klingler was among those to express anger at the announcement and accused the force for wanting to ‘exhaust us’.
‘I’m not going to pretend I am not furious,’ she tweeted.
‘I was stood outside of Stoke Newington Police Station when I heard they filed permission to appeal. They want us to give up. They want to exhaust us. F*** that. Learn the law.’
Activist Patsy Stevenson, who was photographed being detained at the vigil on March 13, 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.
(Left to right) Henna Shah, Jamie Klingler, Anna Birley and Jessica Leigh celebrate outside the Royal Courts of Justice last week
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, and a spontaneous vigil and protest took 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.
In a summary of the ruling, Lord Justice Warby said: ‘The relevant decisions of the (Met) were to make statements at meetings, in letters, and in a press statement, to the effect that the Covid-19 regulations in force at the time meant that holding the vigil would be unlawful.
‘Those statements interfered with the claimants’ rights because each had a ‘chilling effect’ and made at least some causal contribution to the decision to cancel the vigil.
People gather to lay flowers and pay their respects at a vigil on Clapham Common in March last year
‘None of the (force’s) decisions was in accordance with the law; the evidence showed that the (force) failed to perform its legal duty to consider whether the claimants might have a reasonable excuse for holding the gathering, or to conduct the fact-specific proportionality assessment required in order to perform that duty.’
RTS took urgent legal action the day before the planned event, seeking a High Court declaration that any ban on outdoor gatherings under the coronavirus regulations at the time was ‘subject to the right to protest’.
But their request was refused and the court also refused to make a declaration that an alleged force policy of ‘prohibiting all protests, irrespective of the specific circumstances’ was unlawful.
Couzens, 49, was given a whole life sentence at the Old Bailey in September after admitting her murder.
The policing of the spontaneous vigil that took place drew criticism from across the political spectrum after women were handcuffed on the ground and led away by officers.
A report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services concluded the police ‘acted appropriately’ when dealing with the event, but also found it was a ‘public relations disaster’ and described some statements made by members of the force as ‘tone deaf’.
It comes as Couzens has been charged with four counts of indecent exposure as the police watchdog was preparing to publish its findings into Scotland Yard’s handling of the allegations.
Wayne Couzens has been charged with four counts of indecent exposure just days before he raped and murdered Sarah Everard
The former Metropolitan Police officer is accused of flashing his genitals between January 22 and February 27 last year – in one case, just 72 hours before he abducted, raped and murdered the marketing executive.
Couzens allegedly presented himself to at least one person at a McDonald’s drive-thru in Swanley, Kent while he was serving with Scotland Yard. The allegations were made to the Met on February 28, but no arrests were made.
Scotland Yard previously said the McDonald’s allegations were ‘allocated for investigation’ but ‘by the time of Sarah’s abduction it was not concluded’. It then referred itself to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) over how it handled the case.
The watchdog last year launched an investigation into officers for possible misconduct over the failure to identify Couzens.
It has now emerged that the IOPC was preparing to publish its findings on whether Scotland Yard could have stopped Couzens before he murdered Miss Everard ‘next month’. A source told MailOnline that just two of the four alleged incidents were referred to the IOPC.
The decision to charge Couzens means that the watchdog’s findings now must be placed on hold until the conclusion of his trial.
The source added: ‘It begs the question: Why did the Metropolitan Police only refer two of the four alleged incidents?’.
MailOnline has contacted the Met for comment.
The killer was said to have flashed his genitals between January and February last year when he was a serving Metropolitan Police officer
In a statement, Scotland Yard said it had been authorised by the CPS to charge Couzens with indecent exposure between January 22 and February 1 last year, and between January 30 and February 6 last year. The force said it had also charged the killer cop with two offences which allegedly occurred on February 14 and February 27 last year.
Rosemary Ainslie, Head of the CPS Special Crime Division, said: ‘Following a referral of evidence by the Metropolitan Police, the CPS has authorised four charges of indecent exposure against Wayne Couzens.
‘The four alleged offences took place between January and February 2021. He will appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on 13 April.
‘The function of the CPS is not to decide whether a person is guilty of a criminal offence, but to make fair, independent and objective assessments about whether it is appropriate to present charges to a court to consider.
‘Criminal proceedings are active and nothing should be published that could jeopardise the defendant’s right to a fair trial.’
Wayne Couzens will die in jail serving whole life sentence for killing Miss Everard in March 2021
Couzens carried out a fake Covid arrest to trap Miss Everard inside his hire car
A Met Police spokesman said: ‘Detectives investigating a series of sexual offences in Swanley, have been authorised by the Crown Prosecution Service to charge a man.
‘Police have been authorised to charge Wayne Couzens, 49, of no fixed address, with the following offences: Indecent exposure between the January 22, 2021 and February 1, 2021. Indecent exposure between January 30, 2021 and February 6, 2021. Indecent exposure on February 14, 2021. Indecent exposure on February 27, 2021.
‘The incidents are alleged to have taken place in the Swanley area.
‘Couzens will be formally charged on a date yet to be fixed. We will issue an update when this happens.’
Couzens showed Miss Everard his warrant card to force her into his car as part of a fake Covid arrest in March 2021. He then used his Met-issued equipment to handcuff her before strangling her with his police belt.
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