Metropolitan Police Pays “Substantial” Damages to Women Arrested at Everard Vigil

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The Metropolitan Police has awarded damages to two women — Patsy Stevenson and Dania Al-Obeid — following their arrests at a vigil for Sarah Everard held in Clapham Common in south London. The women took legal action against the police force, and a settlement has since been agreed upon, leading to the payment of “substantial” damages.

The police force justified the settlement as “the appropriate decision to minimize the ongoing impact on all involved.” In March 2021, hundreds of attendees gathered at the vigil to honor Ms. Everard, a 33-year-old woman who was tragically kidnapped, raped, and murdered by police officer Wayne Couzens.

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Images displaying women being arrested on the grounds prompted a wave of anger towards Scotland Yard’s methods. The event, originally planned to follow social distance guidelines, was canceled at the behest of Metropolitan Police, citing violations of lockdown restrictions. Even so, people continued to show up throughout the day to pay their respects, including Catherine, the Princess of Wales.

As the evening approached, tension between the gathered crowd and police escalated. Karen Findlay, who is responsible for major events and public order policing in London, conceded in a letter to both arrested women that they had attended the vigil “to express your grief and anger” over Everard’s death. Citing a “fundamental right to protest,” Findlay acknowledged that the Covid-19 pandemic presented “a huge challenge” in maintaining public health safety while respecting this right.

Apologizing for the distress caused, she confirmed her commitment to improving the police response towards women’s protests and acknowledged the need for significant work within the Metropolitan Police to tackle violence against women and girls. Bindmans, the law firm representing the two women, has requested the Met to elucidate their reform measures.

Ms. Stevenson, reflecting on the intense period following the arrest, expressed tremendous relief over the settlement. However, she stated her desire for more accountability from the police force, stating her belief that there was no valid reason for her arrest. Despite her concerns, she characterized the settlement as a “huge, huge celebration.”

Last year, two High Court judges ruled that the Met violated the organizers’ rights, deeming their actions “not in accordance with the law.” Subsequently, the prosecution against six protestors accused of breaching lockdown rules was dropped.

Dania Al-Obeid, one of the six protestors and a survivor of abuse, shared that the post-arrest period was “terrifying [and] confusing.” The settlement for her represented a monumental step – a feeling of finally being seen and heard.

While the exact amount paid to the women remains undisclosed by both the Metropolitan Police and Bindmans, the police spokesperson defended their actions by citing the “extraordinary circumstances” surrounding the vigil and maintained that the officers had acted appropriately and in good faith.