A year on from Sarah Everard’s murder, organisers of her vigil win against the Met 

Jess Leigh (right) with other Reclaim These Streets founders (l-r) Henna Shah, Jamie Klingler and Anna Birley outside the High Court today

“Today’s judgement is a victory for women,” said the organisers of the planned vigil, who include a Lambeth councillor, after the high court found the Metropolitan police breached their rights in the banning of the event. 

The court ruled that the Met “did not act in accordance with the law.”

The vigil was planned to honour Sarah Everard – the Brixton local who was kidnapped, raped and murdered by police officer Wayne Couzens, while walking home from Clapham on 3 March last to her home in Brixton. 

The event, due take place on 13 March last year on Clapham Common, was cancelled when Met officers categorised it “unlawful” under the premise of Covid-19 restrictions. At that time, rules prevented a gathering of more than 30 persons in an outdoor space. The police threatened the organisers with fines of £10,000 each. 

A spontaneous vigil still went ahead as women came together to collectively mourn the death of Everard near to where she went missing. The police’s behaviour at the event was heavily criticised, and later investigated by a police watchdog, but ultimately cleared. 

The claimants and founders of the collective #ReclaimTheseStreets: Jess Leigh, who represents the Brixton ward, Ferndale, on Lambeth council, Anna Birley, Henna Shah and Jamie Klingler, took legal action against the Met Police this January over their handling of the planned vigil. 

However today (11 March) the court ruled: “the evidence showed that the MPS failed to perform its legal duty to consider whether the claimants might have a reasonable excuse for holding the gathering, or to conduct the fact-specific proportionality assessment required in order to perform that duty”. 

The Met was found to have infringed on the “claimants’ rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly”. 

The organisers released a powerful statement saying: “Last March, women’s voices were silenced. Today’s judgement conclusively shows that the police were wrong to silence us.”

“The decisions and actions by the Met Police in the run-up to the planned vigil for Sarah Everard last year were unlawful, and the judgment sets a powerful precedent for protest rights.” 

“We came together one year and one day ago to organise a vigil on Clapham Common because Sarah Everard went missing from our neighbourhood. We felt sad and afraid. We were angry that women still weren’t safe and we were tired of the burden to stay safe always weighing on our shoulders.”

The organisers hope this ruling will also lead to reforms in the Met, including battling misogyny in the force and better protecting women in London. 

London mayor Sadiq Khan welcomed the judgment saying: “A series of events in the past year have damaged confidence in the police and urgent and wide-reaching action is needed to restore it.” 

“It is clear today that there is still serious lessons to be learned in how their duties are carried out.”