London Police ‘Acted Appropriately’ at Sarah Everard Vigil: Watchdog

March 30, 2021 Updated: March 30, 2021

London police acted appropriately at a vigil in memory of Sarah Everard earlier this month, an independent watchdog said on Tuesday.

The Metropolitan police drew public criticisms after officers clashed with and tackled to the ground protesters gathered at a memorial for the murdered woman at Clapham Common, London, on March 13, defying the government’s CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus restrictions.

But Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS), an independent watchdog, said the Met “acted appropriately” at the vigil.

“Officers are our fellow citizens, invested by the community to keep the community safe,” said Sir Thomas Winsor, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary.

“They rely upon and are entitled to receive public support when they act lawfully, sensitively, and proportionately; in this case, in the face of severe provocation and in very difficult circumstances, they did just that.”

Matt Parr, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary, who led the inspection team, criticised the “lack of respect” shown by those who issued “unwarranted” condemnations of the police action.

“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.”

Sarah Everard
Sarah Everard, wearing the coat she wore on the night she went missing. (Met Police)

Everard, 33, disappeared on March 3 near Clapham Common, London, while walking home at around 9 p.m. Her body was found a week later in a woodland outside of London. A Met police officer, 48-year-old Wayne Couzens, was charged with the kidnap and murder of Everard.

At the March 13 vigil, a large number of people gathered in defiance of COVID-19 rules and police warning. Clashes broke out when police officers tried to disperse the crowds. Video footage showed scuffles and some women forced to the ground.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the scenes were “unacceptable” and the police action “neither appropriate nor proportionate.”

Home Secretary Priti Patel said some of the footage was “upsetting,” and Prime Minister Boris Johnson also said he was “deeply concerned” by it.

Lily Zhou contributed to this report.