POLITICS
14/03/2021 16:49 GMT

Priti Patel Says Police Still Have ‘Questions To Answer’ Over Sarah Everard Vigil

Keir Starmer backs Metropolitan Police commissioner Cressida Dick remaining in post.

Home secretary Priti Patel has said the Metropolitan Police still have “questions to answer” over the controversial policing of a vigil in memory of Sarah Everard.

Patel has read the Met’s report on the event but in the interests of “ensuring public confidence in the police” has asked Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary to conduct a “lessons learned review”.

Scuffles broke out at the vigil in Clapham Common, south London, as police surrounded a bandstand covered in flowers left in tribute to Everard on Saturday night.

Officers from the Metropolitan Police were seen grabbing several women, leading them away in handcuffs and the force later said four people were arrested for public order and coronavirus regulation breaches.

The policing of the vigil has led to calls for Met Police commissioner Cressida Dick to quit but Keir Starmer backed her remaining in post.

Patel initially responded by ordering the Met to deliver her a report on the event, which they did on Sunday.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “In the interests of ensuring public confidence in the police, earlier this afternoon the Home Secretary asked Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary to conduct a lessons learned review into the policing of the event at Clapham Common.”

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Home secretary Priti Patel

London mayor Sadiq Khan said he was “not satisfied” with an explanation given to him by Dick and her deputy Steve House in a meeting on Sunday, and asked for a “full independent investigation” by HMIC.

He also asked the Independent Office for Police Conduct to investigate the actions of officers.

But his party leader, Starmer, backed Dick remaining in post.

He told reporters: ““I don’t think Cressida Dick should resign, we need to see the reports that have now been called for.”

Starmer added: “The first thing I’d say is about Sarah Everard’s family and friends, who are going through unspeakable grief.

“Many, many women last night wanted to come together to mark that grief but also to share and shine a torch on a wider experience of women about the fear, the threats and the violence and abuse they face on a daily basis.

“They were right to do that, they should have been allowed to protest, to have their vigil, to come together in peace, and I was very disturbed to see the police action.

“I think it was wrong and I am pleased it’s now going to be reviewed.”

Reclaim These Streets had organised the vigil before being forced to cancel following consultation with the Metropolitan Police, which said it would be in breach of coronavirus restrictions.

It has asked Dick for an urgent meeting so she can “explain the actions taken by the police last night”.

After the clashes, organiser Jamie Klingler said the force’s handling of events was a sign of the “systemic ignoring and oppressing of women”.

The Fire Brigades Union added to criticism of the Met’s handling of the vigil, saying it was “shocking and unacceptable”.

“We utterly condemn the violence meted out by the Metropolitan Police last night on Clapham Common,” the union said on Twitter.

Martin Hewitt, chairman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said he would bring together police chiefs on Monday to discuss “what more we can do to better protect women”.

Hundreds of people converged on the south London park despite an official vigil being called off earlier in the day due to police warnings over coronavirus restrictions.

Vigils also took place in locations including Glasgow, Nottingham, Birmingham and Bristol.