The photograph of Patsy Stevenson’s arrest became one of the defining images of the Sarah Everard vigil (Picture: James Veysey/REX)
Two women who were arrested during a vigil for murdered Sarah Everard will receive payouts from the Metropolitan Police.
The Met was criticised for its ‘heavy handed’ and ‘tone deaf’ reaction to the vigil, which was held out of outrage Ms Everard had been murdered by Wayne Couzens, then a serving police officer.
Patsy Stevenson and Dania Al-Obeid were both detained at the event, held amid ongoing Covid restrictions, on Clapham Common in March 2021.
The event was originally planned by campaign group Reclaim These Streets, which cancelled the protest after Met officers threatened organisers with £10,000 fines under lockdown rules in place at the time.
But members of the public attended anyway, with no police intervention for around six hours before clashes occurred.
Ms Stevenson said: ‘It has taken over two years to reach this conclusion, it’s been a really tiring and difficult process but it has felt important to push for some form of accountability and justice for myself and all women who attended the vigil to express our anger and grief over the murder of Sarah Everard by a serving Metropolitan Police officer.’
Ms Al-Obeid said: ‘I have found this journey incredibly difficult but very important as a survivor of domestic violence and someone who has been failed by the police in that context.
‘I appreciate that the Met Police have acknowledged our motivations for attending it but “badly let down” is an understatement.
The Met’s approach to the vigil was considered ‘heavy handed’ (Picture: PA)
Sarah Everard was murdered by serving Met Police officer Wayne Couzens (Picture: PA)
‘I have felt abused, abandoned by the police prior to, during and post the vigil – I do not feel protected or safe with any police force.’
A legal battle went on long after the vigil, with the original Reclaim These Streets organisers successfully arguing their right to protest had been breached by the Met.
Now Ms Stevenson and Ms Al-Obeid will receive an undisclosed sum from the force.
Commander Karen Findlay wrote in letters to both women: ‘I wish to emphasise that I fully acknowledge that your motivations in attending the vigil were to express your grief and anger regarding the circumstances of the tragic murder of Sarah Everard, and to express the level of concern and dissatisfaction felt by you and many other women who were understandably feeling badly let down by the Met.
‘The policing plan for the vigil was devised to provide an opportunity for members of the public to attend in order to express their grief and anger.
Couzens will spend the rest of his life in prison (Picture: PA)
The original protest was cancelled after the Met threatened to fine Reclaim These Streets £10,000 (Picture: PA)
‘Acknowledging that the fundamental right to protest remained, the circumstances at the time of the vigil – namely that we were in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic – presented an extremely difficult challenge for policing and the officers present due to the need to balance the potential risk such a gathering could pose to public health.
‘That aside, I appreciate the anger, frustration and alarm your arrest undoubtedly caused you, exacerbated by the subsequent proceedings, and I regret that your opportunity to express your grief and anger was curtailed by your arrest and removal.’
A spokesperson for the Met said: ‘The Clapham Common vigil took place in extraordinary circumstances, in the midst of a pandemic where restrictions on gatherings were in force for very valid public health reasons and in the days immediately following the most appalling murder of Sarah Everard by a serving Met officer.
‘We tried to achieve a balance that recognised the rights of the public to protest and to express their grief and sadness, while also continuing to enforce the relevant Covid legislation.
“‘The actions of individual officers were found by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabularies to have been appropriate.
‘They acted in good faith, interpreting complex and changing legislation in very challenging circumstances in a way that was entirely consistent with their colleagues working across London at the time.
‘A protracted legal dispute is not in the interests of any party, least of all the complainants who we recognise have already experienced significant distress as a result of this incident.
‘The most appropriate decision, to minimise the ongoing impact on all involved, was to reach an agreed settlement.’
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