Johnson ‘deeply concerned’ at footage of police breaking up Sarah Everard vigil

London police draw heavy public criticism following actions at gathering on Saturday

A number of arrests were made after clashes broke out between mourners and London police on Saturday evening during a memorial in Clapham Common for murdered woman Sarah Everard. Video: Reuters

 

British prime minister Boris Johnson said on Sunday he was deeply concerned at footage of police breaking up a weekend vigil for a murdered woman that drew heavy public criticism of the force.

London police faced an official inquiry into their actions after they intervened on Saturday night in the vigil for Sarah Everard (33), who disappeared as she walked home on March 3rd. A policeman has been charged with her murder.

“Like everyone who saw it I was deeply concerned about the footage from Clapham Common on Saturday night,” Mr Johnson said in a statement, referring to the London parkland near where the impromptu gathering took place in defiance of a police ban on due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Mr Johnson will chair a meeting of the British crime and justice taskforce on Monday to look at what action needs to be taken to ensure the UK’s streets are safe.

Metropolitan Police commissioner Cressida Dick is expected to attend the meeting along with British director of public prosecutions Max Hill, home secretary Priti Patel, and secretary of state for justice and lord chancellor Robert Buckland.

Mr Johnson will use it to discuss the Government’s strategy on violence against women and girls, securing safer streets, rape prosecutions and the criminal justice system.

Ahead of the meeting, he said: “I have spoken with the Metropolitan Police commissioner who has committed to reviewing how this was handled and the home secretary has also commissioned HM Inspectorate of Constabulary to conduct a lessons learned review into the policing of the event.

“Tomorrow I will chair a meeting of the Government’s Crime and Justice Taskforce to look at what further action we need to take to protect women and ensure our streets are safe.

“The death of Sarah Everard must unite us in determination to drive out violence against women and girls and make every part of the criminal justice system work to protect and defend them.”

The British home secretary added: “With Sarah and her family in my thoughts and prayers, I will continue to do all I can in my role as home secretary to protect women and girls.

“Everyone should be free to walk our streets without fear of harassment, abuse or violence.

“The home office survey on tackling violence against women and girls has received an unprecedented 53,000 responses since it reopened on Friday and I’d urge everyone to give us their views.”

Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said: “At a moment when the country is demanding action to tackle violence against women and girls, the Conservatives have responded with yet more meetings and another consultation.

“We already know what is needed to be done and that’s why Labour has put forward proposals to tackle street harassment, toughen up penalties for rapists and take action on stalking.

“If the Government was serious about this issue then it would stop talking and start acting.” – Reuters/PA