The Metropolitan Police has paid damages to two women arrested at a vigil for Sarah Everard in March 2021, after a series of legal battles.
Patsy Stevenson and Dania al-Obeid, who launched legal claims against the Met under the Human Rights Act last October, said they had received settlements and letters of apology from Commander Karen Findlay of the Met.
In a statement released just after midnight, Scotland Yard confirmed an agreement had been reached as it sought to avoid a “protracted legal dispute”.
Social Justice organisation Reclaim These Streets organised the vigil after Ms Everard, 33, was kidnapped, raped and murdered by off-duty Met police constable Wayne Couzens.
Pictures of Ms Stevenson being pinned down by police were widely shared, sparking debate over heavy-handedness in the police.
Speaking to the Guardian, Stevenson said the result was a “big win”.
“Every step has been a huge hurdle, so I appreciate what they’ve said but […] even if you go through a [legal battle] they still won’t hold themselves accountable for what they’ve done. But this is a very big win for us, and for everyone who attended the vigil,” she said.
Ms al-Obeid was also handcuffed and arrested at the vigil.
“The police are not the right organisation to be on the frontline for victims of violence, they just end up re-traumatising them,” she told the paper.
She added: “I will continue speaking out about the abuse that goes on in police forces and their lack of support for victims of abuse.”
According to the Guardian, Commander Findlay told the women that their “fundamental right to protest remained”, but noted that the pandemic “presented an extremely difficult challenge for policing and the officers present”.
She added: “That aside, I appreciate the anger, frustration and alarm your arrest undoubtedly caused you, exacerbated by the subsequent proceedings.”
High Court judges ruled in March 2022 that the Met breached the rights of organisers with its handling of the vigil.
Lord Justice Warby and Mr Justice Holgate, ruled that the decisions made by the police service were “unlawful”, and concluded that the force failed “to carry out a case-specific proportionality assessment”.
A Metropolitan Police spokesperson said: “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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