Met Police cleared over handling of Sarah Everard vigil – BBC Newsnight

her disappearance horrified the nation earlier this month 33 year old sarah everard vanished after leaving a friend's house in clapham south london six days later serving police officer pc wayne cousins was charged with her murder it triggered a national conversation how safe do women feel walking on the streets of britain for many the answer was too often not safe enough i just wanted to be here today to stand in solidarity with all women i just really really upset me what's happened thousands gathered for a vigil which police had called illegal during lockdown in a short space of time it went from being peaceful to chaos the pictures raised questions about the metropolitan police's conduct with many women criticizing what they believed to be a heavy-handed approach the mayor of london condemned the police response to the sarah everard vigil and others called for the resignation of met chief dame cressida dick the images from that vigil of women being handcuffed spread like wildfire on social media they shaped people's views and opinions of the police and today's report supports that with the inspectorate saying the public confidence in the force has suffered as a result of what happened that night and a more conciliatory approach to events would have served its interests better but today the met was exonerated after an independent review concluded it had acted appropriately in a report the official policing inspectorate said police officers at the vigil did their best to peacefully disperse the crowd police officers remained calm and professional when subjected to abuse and police officers did not act inappropriately or in a heavy-handed manner the police were damned if they do and damned if they didn't when it comes to this protest they tried their damn list uh to enable the visual to take place in these two terrible coveted times uh and unfortunately there were some elements there that were determined uh to cause trouble but the police could have if they were inclined to do so and if they were supported by the government they could have walked away and let it happen and people would have just moved on and made their point but the force didn't escape criticism the watchdog said officers didn't inform senior members of the team about the duchess of cambridge's arrival and that they only found out about it after seeing her on the news it also said there was insufficient communication between police commanders about changing events on the ground however some feel the police weren't criticized enough i was at the vigil and i was very very disappointed at the response and the final decision by the watchdog i mean the message therefore is clear that the safety of women is not the priority um the reputation of the metropolitan police is a priority so when you go to these events to protest you would expect the police to be extra sensitive about the fact that well it's a met officer who um is accused so let us treat this situation um with regard and recognize that women are feeling unsafe the report makes clear a peaceful and reasonable intent of many was overshadowed by the malign actions of a few to their critics the police stand accused of using their powers irresponsibly to others it's the irresponsibility of troublemakers that's the issue of course there will be more demos to test their response well that was seen semiconductor and joining us now sir peter firee who was chief constable of greater manchester police for 34 years and anna burley one of the organizers of the clapham vigil who was threatened with arrest and a ten thousand pound fine um sir peter can i just get your sense of whether you um agree with the findings of the report today well at the end of the day you know the people carrying out the review have had access particularly to all the body camera footage uh every officer now wears a camera on their body which films everything that they're doing um all the the sound what they say what other people say to them and they've clearly interviewed lots of the officers that were there and interviewed the organizers and and and you know they've given their view i think the police were in a very difficult position particularly because of the confusion over the legislation and particularly because they weren't able to do what they would normally have done which would have been to negotiate with the organizers of a protest because uh under the coronavirus legislation to organize such a protest itself was an offence thankfully that changed on monday so for all future protests as would normally happen and happen before the these cove regulations the police will be able to talk to the organizers and hopefully there'll be more agreement but i i'm pleased that the officers on the ground who are faced with a very difficult situation and have had their actions exonerated but that doesn't really deal with the wider issue about women's confidence and policing overall right well let me turn to anna burleigh are you able to accept the findings anna i am no it's a really disappointing report and actually we poured a lot of time into feeding into the investigation and we don't see any any of our feedback really reflected in there i don't think it's an exoneration of the of the police at all um i think the report does point to the fact that there were opportunities to engage with organizers in advance um and i just want to challenge something that um your previous speaker just said that it isn't unlawful to organize an assembly under the human rights act and it never has been and the court case showed that their failure to engage with us was the unlawful part a blanket ban on on protest isn't appropri isn't lawful peter uh ended by talking about trust that women will have uh in the met police as a result of either protest or the findings of the report what is your sense um i think this whole sorry saga started with a lack of trust we had pictures of a missing girl on every lamppost in my local neighborhood and police knocking on doors telling women that they need to stay at home for their own safety and part of their drive to want to reclaim our public spaces and come together in a in a peaceful vigil on clapham common was to express our dissatisfaction and frustration at the fact that yet again the the onus has been put on women to deal with violence against women when actually the problem isn't women we don't need to change our behavior it's the people who perpetrate violence against women so peter do you accept that um from the the perspective of perception this is the worst possible outcome because it was all about women asking to feel safer on the streets and they ended up you know with the police instead of looking at their own behavior there wasn't even a slap on the wrist well i think you know the report does give a balance to you and i think you know i i personally i think the best thing we can say is the the legislation is confused which didn't help the police in this instance um i think it's good that the report has recognized those uh operational officers on the ground did the best they could uh but your other speaker is absolutely right there is a far bigger problem about the conference that women have in the criminal justice system and the pitiful low figure rate at the moment for instance for the prosecution of rape now and i know that's why you know that the senior officers in the met particularly president dick you know we'll we'll absolutely um not see this as some form of victory but we'll be really concerned at the far wider issue absolutely about that issue of confidence of women but also you know the real weakness in the criminal justice system to achieve prosecutions which you know we're all feeding into this reluctance of victims to come forward and and and make complaints what was very noticeable was that local lambeth police were praised forces across the country um had had calm and and uh easy you know vigils that night is is there a particular problem with the met and and community policing is that something that you have noticed in your career but i don't think so i think you know there was a particular issue around clapham fully understandable but that was where sarah everyone had gone missing from uh and where you know this awful crime had uh had occurred um so there wasn't that same level of emotion in other places like manchester but obviously we've seen you know the difficulties around the police and other protests in in bristol you know policing protest is always difficult and the police always have in mind that the way you police a protest will have a you know a longer-term impact on that level of confidence i come back to it that you know the big problem the police have had that is they've not been able to engage and negotiate with those carrying out protests as they would normally have done you know week on week out the metropolitan police deal with many many protests in london um many of the most of them that go unnoticed and concerned here which obviously contributed to what happened sorry about that anna i think that one of the things that the report says is that actually after a day of of policing uh that sort of turned into nightfall they then spent an hour asking people politely gently to go home and and it was the refusal that sparked the actions i mean was this just a clash of of sort of you know to too much sort of um i suppose you know too much hard hot feeling at a very very difficult moment i i wasn't there at that point i had been threatened by the metropolitan police of being charged under the serious crimes act uh for seeking to organize a vigil for a girl who was allegedly adopted and murdered by by a police officer so when we look at sort of the appropriateness and proportionality of policing we need to look at the run-up to the event not simply the event itself it was disproportionate and it was not constructive um and we we sought to engage with the police from the get-go i think um what we have been clear about is that by failing to engage with organizers and by just writing off all forms of protest as unlawful they made the event more dangerous than it needed to be we had um you know collectively as organizers we've got decades of experience of working with the police by working with the council other public bodies by organizing communities and we brought that experience to the police and asked to work with them to organize stewards to have qr codes on trees to enforce social distancing and mask wearing um lots of lots of different things that would have made that a safe and peaceful event and by failing to engage with us they created a search situation in which um that didn't happen anna berlin peter pay thank you both very much indeed thank you

Add Comment