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Sensational 70’s

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Sensational 70’s

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Sarah Everard vigil may still go ahead despite police ruling it out, organisers claim

Written by on 12 March 2021

A group of women hoping to hold a vigil in memory of Sarah Everard claim it may still go ahead, despite a judge refusing to intervene in their dispute with Scotland Yard.

Reclaim These Streets launched a legal challenge in the High Court to overturn a decision to ban Saturday’s event at Clapham Common, south London.

In his ruling, Mr Justice Holgate refused an application for “an interim declaration”.

He was being asked to rule that any ban on outdoor gatherings, under coronavirus regulations, is “subject to the right to protest”.

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Murder charge announced in Sarah Everard case

He also refused to declare that an alleged policy by the Metropolitan Police of “prohibiting all protests, irrespective of the specific circumstances”, is unlawful.

Nevertheless, Reclaim These Streets said they were “pleased” with what the judge had said.

Responding to his remarks, they said Mr Justice Holgate had “spelled out that the law does not prevent the police from permitting and facilitating protest in all circumstances”.

They added: “The law is now clear that it is up to the police to conduct a proportionality assessment.”

However, Commander Catherine Roper, the Met’s lead for community engagement, said: “I understand this ruling will be a disappointment to those hoping to express their strength of feeling, but I ask women and allies across London to find a safe alternative way to express their views.

“We continue to speak with the organisers of the vigil in Clapham and other gatherings across London in light of this judgment, and will explain the rules and urge people to stay at home.

“Our city is still in a battle with COVID-19.”

A serving Metropolitan Police officer, 48-year-old Wayne Couzens, has been charged with kidnapping and murdering Sarah Everard.

Ms Everard was last seen at 9.30pm Wednesday 3 March in Clapham Image: Ms Everard went missing while walking home

Mr Justice Holgate said the organisers had been told by police that the vigil “would be illegal” and that their “hands were tied” by COVID regulations.

The four claimants had also been warned they could be issued with £10,000 fixed penalty notices and might be arrested, the judge added.

He ruled that “the requirements of the law have been clearly stated” in previous court rulings, including a challenge to COVID-19 lockdown rules brought by businessman Simon Dolan, which was dismissed by the Court of Appeal in December.

But he added that there may be “further communication” between the vigil organisers’ lawyers and Scotland Yard to discuss the “application of the regulations”.

Lana Adamou, a lawyer with the human rights group Liberty, said the judgment was “concerning”, adding: “Safe, socially distanced demonstrations are perfectly possible and it is the duty of the police to facilitate them, not block them.”

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PM ‘shocked and appalled’ by Sarah Everard case

Following the decision at the High Court, a government spokesman said: “All of our thoughts are with Sarah’s family and friends at this terrible time, and the government recognises why so many women and girls across the country want to pay their respects.

“We are still in the middle of a pandemic, which is why we urge people to do this safely and to continue to avoid mass gatherings.

“We have also reopened our nationwide call for views on tackling violence against women and girls. So many have bravely shared their experiences over recent days and the government is listening.”

Asked about the case, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he had been “shocked and appalled”, and that the “whole country is united in feeling for her friends and family”.

Mr Johnson said he “totally understands why this has triggered such a wave of feeling on this issue of safety of women”.

Assistant Commissioner Nick Ephgrave said: “I know that the public feel hurt and angry about what has happened, and those are sentiments that I share personally, and I know my colleagues here at Scotland Yard and across the Met share as well.

“I also recognise the wider concerns that have been raised, quite rightly, about the safety of women in public spaces in London and also elsewhere in the country.

“I want to say now that this organisation, and the men and women in it, remain committed to protecting Londoners wherever they are in this city.

“That commitment is undiminished by these events and, if anything, is strengthened by these tragic circumstances.”

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