Metropolitan Police officers “did not act inappropriately or in a heavy-handed manner” at the Clapham Common vigil for Sarah Everard, a watchdog has said.

Footage of police officers handcuffing women at the vigil near the Clapham Common bandstand on March 13 went viral on social media, with many criticising the Met’s response and handling of the situation.

Now, a report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) has found that the force acted in a “measured and proportionate way”.

It did, however, also state that officers did not respond well enough to changing events, adding: “there was insufficient communication between police commanders about changing events on the ground”.

The independent investigation was commissioned by the home secretary, Priti Patel, and focused on the force’s decisions that evening.

The report says the force took “justified” actions to reduce the risks of transmitting coronavirus, saying that they were “too great to ignore when planning for and policing the event”.

It also said that officers “did their best to peacefully disperse the crowd” and “remained calm and professional”.
In total, four people were arrested that evening for public disorder and coronavirus regulation breaches, the Met said.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast the following day, one of the women arrested, Louise McLoughlin, said that the vigil had been “a really lovely scene” when she arrived at around 18.00. She added: “It started to get a bit more riled” around half an hour later.

“The decision was obviously made for [the police] to move in and take over the area,” she said.

“At that point, it became a bit of a push and pull and there were a few scuffles and all of the candles and glass and the signs and the flowers that would have been put down for Sarah, you could just hear the breaking of glass now and again as these things were trampled on.”

Sir Thomas Winsor, the Chief Inspector of Constabulary who led the review, said: “Officers are our fellow citizens, invested by the community to keep the community safe.”

He added: “They rely upon and are entitled to receive public support when they act lawfully, sensitively and proportionately; in this case, in the face of severe provocation and in very difficult circumstances, they did just that.”

The report also found that public confidence in the force had suffered as a result of the scenes at Clapham Common, suggesting “a more conciliatory response after the event might have served the Met’s interests better”.

Sarah Everard was a 33-year-old marketer who went missing on Poynders Road, while walking home from a friend’s house in Clapham on March 3, at around 9pm.

Police then arrested a serving Met officer, later identified as 48-year-old Wayne Couzens, on suspicion of kidnap and murder. He was also detained for a separate allegation of indecent exposure.

Human remains were found in woodlands near Ashford, Kent, on March 10, before police confirmed they were those of Ms Everard two days later.

Her disappearance has sparked outcry, with the topic of women’s safety brought to the forefront of public discourse.

The suspect is due in court later this year.

Image via Alamy