The Met police of wrong-doing during the Sarah Everard vigil, a report has found.
The report was published yesterday (March 30) by Chief Inspector of Constabulary Sir Thomas Windsor after Home Secretary Priti Patel and London Mayor Sadiq Khan asked for an investigation into police conduct.
The report concluded Met officers acted “lawfully, sensitively and proportionately” despite “severe provocation” and “very difficult circumstances” in breaking up the vigil earlier this month. The report then condemns senior figures who demonstrated a ‘jump to conclusions’ approach.
The report also concluded that officers had tried to disperse the crowd peacefully and had remained “calm and professional” while facing abuse in the later stages of the event and had not acted “heavy handedly” when using force to bring it to a halt.
“The chorus of those condemning the Metropolitan Police, and calling for the resignation of the Commissioner, within hours of the arrests – and presumably, with a very limited understanding of what had happened – was unwarranted,” the report states.
“Whereas a certain degree of uninformed commentary, particularly on social media, is inevitable, in this case some of the leading voices were those in positions of some responsibility.
“It is one thing – as in the case of the Home Secretary – to recognise that the scenes were worrying or upsetting (and to order an inspection such as this).
“It is another to jump to conclusions – and in doing so, undermine public confidence in policing – based on very limited evidence. To do so shows a distinct lack of respect for public servants facing, as we have described, a sensitive and complex situation.”
The report is thought to be taking aim at Sadiq Khan, with watchdogs saying that this had “undermined confidence in policing” without justification in a further powerful swipe at Mr Khan and the Met’s other critics.
Today’s findings follow the outcry over the disorder at the vigil on Saturday March 13 which took place peacefully for several hours before ending in violent scenes when police decided to break it up on the grounds that it was breaching coronavirus restrictions on mass gatherings.
The Mayor attacked the force’s handling of the event as “unacceptable” and neither “appropriate nor proportionate” and the Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey called for Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick to resign.
The Metropolitan Police Deputy Commissioner Sir Stephen House later declared, however, that he would not apologise for the way his officers had responded in a public health crisis.
It also points out that “the peaceful and reasonable intent” of the majority attending the vigil “was overshadowed by the malign actions of a few” and that “although not remotely comparable with the violence of some protests – including some in the days since the Clapham Common vigil – there was still a degree of aggression, rancour and animosity directed towards officers.”
The report adds, however, that the Met could have given a “more conciliatory response” after the event in the face of criticism and finds that there was “insufficient communication between police commanders about changing events on the ground”.
Announcing the findings today, Matt Parr, who led the inspectorate team analysing the vigil’s policing, said the Met had “faced a complex and sensitive policing challenge at Clapham Common.”
He added: “Condemnation of the Met’s actions within mere hours of the vigil – including from people in positions of responsibility – was unwarranted, showed a lack of respect for public servants facing a complex situation, and undermined public confidence in policing based on very limited evidence.
“After reviewing a huge body of evidence – rather than a snapshot on social media – we found that there are some things the Met could have done better, but we saw nothing to suggest police officers acted in anything but a measured and proportionate way in challenging circumstances.
“A minute’s silence was held for Sarah at 6 pm, after which a peaceful and sombre vigil turned into something else – a rally with dense crowds and little or no social distancing.
“We concluded that the Met was right to recognise the need to be seen to be consistent in its policing of all events and gatherings. They were, therefore, right to enforce the regulations – having gone to some lengths to persuade people to disperse.”
Feature Image Credit: Canva