Victory for women's rights campaigners over Met Police

The high court has found the Met Police broke the law in their approach to a vigil for Sarah Everard last year.

Friday, 11th March — By Isabelle Stanley

sarah everard CamdenNewJournalMarch18 Image 2021-03-18 at 09.51.53 (14)

A WOMEN’S safety group have won their legal battle against the Met Police in a landmark ruling that proves the Met infringed on their right to peaceful protest after the murder of Sarah Everard.

The murder of 33-year-old Ms Everard – at the hands of acting police officer Wayne Couzens last March – sparked a wave of public grief and anger.

Reclaim These Streets, co-organised by Camden Town resident Jamie Klingler, planned a protest in Clapham Common almost exactly a year ago today (Friday). They were forced to cancel the vigil for Ms Everard after the Met threatened them with prosecution and a £10,000 fine.

An impromptu vigil still took place and police clashed with protesters, arresting nine women.

Ever since, the police’s actions have been criticised, but it was only this week they were found to have broken the law and to have infringed on the women’s human rights.

At a two day hearing in January, organisers Jessica Leigh, Anna Birley, Henna Shah and Jamie Klingler argued that decisions made by the force breached their human right to freedom of speech and assembly and the force did not assess the potential risk to public health.

In a ruling on Friday, two senior judges accepted their arguments and found that the Met’s decisions were “not in accordance with the law”.

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.”

In a statement after the ruling the Met said it was “considering very carefully” whether it should appeal the decision.

Assistant Commissioner Louisa Rolfe said: “The Met unreservedly endorses the principle that fundamental freedoms, such as those exercised by the claimants in this case, may only be restricted where it is necessary and proportionate for a lawful purpose. Consideration of an appeal is in no way indicative that the Met do not consider such protections to be of the utmost importance.

“It is, however, incumbent on the Met to ensure that this judgment does not unduly inhibit its ability, and that of police forces across the country, to effectively balance competing rights in a way that is operationally deliverable.”

 

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