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Activism

Organisers of Sarah Everard vigil take Met Police to court over handling of event

Activists from Reclaim These Streets say the Met’s decision not to allow the vigil breached their human rights.

The organisers of the vigil for Sarah Everard are taking the Metropolitan Police to court over its handling of the event.

Four founders of Reclaim These Streets, who organised the vigil on Clapham Common on March 13, say the Met’s handling of the event breached their human rights.

Despite initially organising the vigil, the group withdrew from it after police said it would be an unlawful gathering and said the organisers could face fines of up to £10,000 each.

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The event went ahead anyway, and police faced sharp criticism for their heavy-handed tactics as they handcuffed female attendees.

In a letter released ahead of the hearing, Reclaim These Streets said it hoped the court would agree its members’ human rights had been breached by the Met’s refusal to allow the protest.

“If we succeed, this will set an important precedent – not only on policing during the pandemic, but also on the importance of the police not using high level decisions parliament has made as a reason to evade their human rights responsibilities,” the group wrote.

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In the High Court hearing, due to take place on Wednesday and Thursday, the four will argue their rights to freedom of speech and assembly were breached.

They will also seek damages, which they say will be donated to charity if awarded.

Everard was abducted on the evening of March 3 2021, while walking home through south London.

Police officer Wayne Couzens, who falsely arrested Everard before killing her, was sentenced to a whole life term in September 2021.

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In October, Couzens lodged an appeal against his sentence.

An inquiry into Everard’s murder will begin this year, chaired by Dame Elish Angiolini, and will examine Couzens’ conduct and the police’s handling of allegations against him.

Peers in the House of Lords last week voted not to give the inquiry statutory powers which would have enabled it to compel witnesses to testify and organisations to hand over evidence.

“We must assume that the government want an inquiry that drags on for years and does not answer the fundamental questions,” Lib Dem peer Baron Brian Paddick said.

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