Vindicated! Court rules Met Police DID breach their human right to peaceful protest

How women’s vigil organisers feel after court rules Met Police DID breach their human right to peaceful protest

Friday, 18th March — By Isabelle Stanley

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Jamie Klinger, left, among the Reclaim The Streets campaigners outside the High Court

THE leader of a women’s safety group has said “the little people won” after proving in court that the Met Police infringed on their right to peaceful protest following the murder of Sarah Everard.

Reclaim These Streets planned a demonstration on Clapham Common after serving police officer Wayne Couzens killed Ms Everard, 33, last year. He had told her she was being arrested before handcuffing her and driving her away.

Despite the national anger around the case, the group was forced to cancel the vigil for Ms Everard after the Met threatened campaigners with prosecution and a £10,000 fine.

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

Ever since, the actions by the police have been criticised, but it was only this week they were found to have broken the law and to have infringed upon 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”.

When the judgment was handed down, Ms Klingler – who lives in Camden Town – said: “We were crying and screaming, I wanted to tell my mum. We’re the little guys, we were just four women – we hadn’t even met this time last year, we met each other and our lawyers on Twitter. It’s the most millennial case ever.”

She believes the Met tried to stop the protest because “a police officer killed her and they didn’t want to bring attention to it, but they brought so much more attention to it by doing this.”

After the protest, the police denied they had pressured the group into cancelling the protest. Ms Klingler said: “I’ve never felt so gaslit in my life. To actually have it all cemented and understood that everything we said was true now, to have it vindicated was so refreshing. I just needed it. The past year has been so tough.”

She added: “Now the Met need to apologise and move on.”

However, 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.”

She added: “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.”

In February, after a series of controversies, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he had lost confidence in the leadership of Met commissioner Dame Cressida Dick, who then resigned from the top job.

She had previously been supported by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Sir Keir Starmer, the Holborn and St Pancras MP and the leader of the Labour opposition.

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