Southend woman arrested at Everard vigil prepares for legal action

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A woman who was arrested during the Clapham Common vigil for Sarah Everard is preparing to take legal action against the Metropolitan Police.

Patsy Stevenson, from Southend, told Scotland Yard she intends to take force action if she does not withdraw the fixed penalty notice issued to her.

The 28-year-old is also asking for an acknowledgment of wrongdoing and an apology.

Images of the physics student handcuffed and held down by two male officers sparked anger at Scotland Yard police during the March 13 rally.

Hundreds of people attended the vigil in south west London to pay tribute to Ms Everard, 33, who was killed after she went missing on her way home.

The event was originally hosted by Reclaim These Streets, who canceled it after the Met said it shouldn’t take place, and no definitive answer on this has been provided by the High Court.

But people came all day and officers didn’t intervene for the first six hours as many came to lay flowers, with the Duchess of Cambridge paying her respects as well.

In the evening, hundreds of people had gathered and refused to leave at the request of the police, which led to clashes in which demonstrators were gathered on the ground and arrested.

The Met has faced a deluge of criticism, including calls for Commissioner Cressida Dick to resign.

An official report from the watchdog, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Police and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFR), supported the Met’s handling of the event and found no evidence of brutality .

Ms Stevenson says she intends to “vigorously challenge” the force until there has been an acknowledgment and apology for the wrongdoing.

She received a letter dated 19 April telling her that a Met officer had given her a fixed penalty notice in the amount of £ 200 on the grounds that she was “present at a large-scale rally”.

A pre-action letter, sent to the force by Bindmans LLP, argues that the notice was the result of an “illegal” police operation in which some participants were subjected to “excessive force and physical abuse. unnecessary arrests ”.

The stance on vigils or protests was that the police should examine each individual event and weigh the risks to public health with the right to protest and freedom of expression involved.

Ms Stevenson’s lawyers say law enforcement violated her rights to free speech and freedom of assembly and association.

They argue that exercising these rights would have been a “reasonable excuse” for her to break coronavirus regulations prohibiting people from assembling.

And they note a March Joint Human Rights Committee report that said “participating in a protest, if conducted in a way that minimizes the risk of the spread of Covid-19, could have been and could remain a legal reason to leave the home during confinement ”.

The Met has been asked to respond by Friday, July 2.

Ms Stevenson said the vigil was an important space for women to mourn together and that she drew strength from the number of women who attended.

She said, “I am angry that the police closed our space for crying and comforting each other and I feel raped that male police officers used physical force to do so.

“I will not be silenced by such actions and I am ready to vigorously challenge the police for their conduct on this day until there has been an acknowledgment and apology for their wrongdoing.”

Rachel Harger, Bindmans’ attorney representing Ms Stevenson, said the Met maintained its position that participation in the event was a criminal act that was “incorrect in law … seriously ill-advised and utterly unnecessary”.

She continued, “The officers’ decision to then move on to brutal physical enforcement of coronavirus regulations in order to arbitrarily arrest Patsy, apparently just so that officers can obtain his personal information to issue him a fixed penalty notice. , showed complete disregard for his rights to privacy, freedom of expression, and freedom of assembly and association.

“At the very least, the Metropolitan Police must issue a full and meaningful apology for this disastrous police operation and the abuse of women who had gathered only to express their collective anger and grief. ”

Sisters Uncut, a feminist campaign group that attended the vigil, said it was “impossible for women to implicitly believe that the police are there to protect us.”

The group added: “It is the treatment of survivors who reported rape and domestic violence, policing of women during this vigil, as well as the conduct of undercover police officers which all point to systemic failures and long-term institutional sexism. ”

Scotland Yard has been approached for comment.

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