The Metropolitan Police breached the rights of organisers of a vigil for Sarah Everard with its handling of the planned event, High Court judges have ruled.
Reclaim These Streets (RTS) proposed a socially-distanced vigil for the 33-year-old, who was murdered by former Met officer Wayne Couzens, near to where she went missing in Clapham, south London, in March last year.
The four women who founded RTS and planned the vigil brought a legal challenge against the force over its handling of the event, which was also intended to be a protest about violence against women.
They withdrew from organising the vigil after being told by the force they would face fines of £10,000 each and possible prosecution if the event went ahead, and a spontaneous vigil and protest took place instead.
Jessica Leigh, Anna Birley, Henna Shah and Jamie Klingler argued that decisions made by the force in advance of the planned vigil amounted to a breach of their human rights to freedom of speech and assembly, and said the force did not assess the potential risk to public health.
In a ruling on Friday, two senior judges upheld their claim, finding that the Met’s decisions in the run up to the event were “not in accordance with the law”.
Reaction to the judgement flooded in:
Reclaim These Streets said:
“Today’s judgment is a victory for women.
“Last March, women’s voices were silenced.
“Today’s judgment conclusively shows that the police were wrong to silence us.
“The decisions and actions by the Met Police in the run-up to the planned vigil for Sarah Everard last year were unlawful and the judgment sets a powerful precedent for protest rights.
“We came together, one year and one day ago, to organise a vigil on Clapham Common because Sarah Everard went missing from our neighbourhood.
“We felt sad and afraid.
“We were angry that women still weren’t safe and we were tired of the burden to stay safe always weighing on our shoulders.
“We organised it because as women we needed a space to stand together in solidarity, grief and defiance.
“And above all we organised it because it’s wrong that women face violence and harassment every single day.
“We couldn’t have imagined the far-reaching implications of our decision to organise, and certainly never imagined we would be here in the High Court a year later – but we couldn’t stand by in the face of the Met Police’s determination to prevent women from exercising their human right to protest.
“We feel vindicated by today’s judgment.”