Four Prosecuted For Breaching UK COVID-19 Rules At Sarah Everard Vigil

Four Prosecuted For Breaching UK COVID-19 Rules At Sarah Everard Vigil
Police officers form a cordon as a crowd turn on their phone torches at a band-stand where a planned vigil in honour of alleged murder victim Sarah Everard was cancelled due to CCP virus restrictions, on Clapham Common, south London on March 13, 2021. (Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images)
Chris Summers
Four people who attended a vigil for murdered marketing executive Sarah Everard are being prosecuted in secret court hearings in London for allegedly breaking COVID-19 laws by their attendance.
The vigil followed the discovery of Everard’s body in Kent. Her killer turned out to be a serving police officer, PC Wayne Couzens, and in September last year he admitted kidnap, rape, and murder and was given a whole life sentence.
The spontaneous vigil, which was attended by hundreds of people, took place on Clapham Common, not far from where Everard was abducted by Couzens, who tricked her into getting into his car in handcuffs after telling her she was in breach of the lockdown rules.

It was held after Reclaim These Streets were forced to cancel an official vigil after being threatened with £10,000 fines.

The Metropolitan Police were criticised for their allegedly heavy-handed approach to the vigil, which ended with women being handcuffed on the ground and led away by predominantly male officers.

A report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services said the police’s handling of the vigil was a “public relations disaster” and said some of the statements made by senior officers were “tone deaf.”

Vivien Hohmann, 20, from Clapham, Dania Al-Obeid, 27, from Stratford, east London, Ben Wheeler, 21, from Kennington, south London, and Kevin Godin-Prior, 68, from Manchester, were due to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday.

But they are being prosecuted under the controversial single justice procedure (SJP), which is not open to the press or public.

All four are accused of participating in a gathering of more than two people in a public outdoor place when London was under Tier 4 restrictions.

Tristan Kirk, the London Evening Standard’s courts correspondent, wrote on Twitter: “The MoJ [Ministry of Justice] and the Attorney General chose to allow COVID prosecutions in closed courts. In the early days of the pandemic, there was a safety reason. Now it’s done for expediency. Met Police chose to prosecute these (and many other) cases in the SJP system.”

Earlier this week the Metropolitan Police was refused permission to appeal for a second time against a High Court ruling which concluded they had breached the rights of the Reclaim These Streets organisers.

Four of the organisers, Jessica Leigh, Anna Birley, Henna Shah, and Jamie Klingler, argued it amounted to a breach of their human rights to freedom of speech and assembly.

PA Media contributed to this report.