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Sarah Everard vigil – latest: Protests outside parliament as Tory MPs say event was ‘hijacked’ by extremists

Crowds gather outside of Scotland Yard to mourn Sarah Everard

Boris Johnson has “full confidence” in Cressida Dick as Metropolitan Police commissioner his official spokesperson has said, amid calls for the police chief to resign over her force’s handling of a vigil held in memory of Sarah Everard.

Mr Johnson, who said he was left “deeply concerned” after seeing footage of police officers cracking down on Saturday’s event, is expected to chair a meeting of the government’s Crime and Justice Taskforce with Ms Dick later today.

The prime minister is expected to discuss how to better protect women and girls from violence with the Met Police commissioner and other attendees.

Hundreds of people gathered outside Scotland Yard and in Parliament Square yesterday to demand justice for Sarah, as well as an end to violence against women and girls.


Crowds gather for protest outside parliament

Hundreds of people have gathered at Parliament Square in London for another protest in memory of Sarah Everard.

People at the vigil held banners and chanted as dozens of police officers watched on.

Chiara Giordano15 March 2021 17:29

Mayor of London meets Reclaim These Streets organisers

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has said he has met with the organisers of Saturday’s Reclaim These Streets vigil to discuss “how to make London safer for women”.

Mr Khan said talks included “focusing on a city-wide strategy and the importance of misogyny being recorded as a hate crime”.

“Over the last week, we have seen an outpouring of grief and anger from women in London and across the country over Sarah Everard’s death and the daily reality of male violence against women and girls,” Mr Khan said in a statement.

“The terrible truth is that many women and girls do not feel safe and I am committed to doing everything in my power to address this.”

Mr Khan said he also listened to “and shared” the campaigners’ concerns about the policing of Saturday’s vigil, into which he has called for an independent investigation.

Chiara Giordano15 March 2021 17:10

Police bill risks being ‘abusers’ charter’, Labour warns

Labour has warned the government’s controversial police bill “risks becoming an abusers’ charter”.

Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds told the House of Commons that the legislation devotes more space to defending statues from vandalism than protecting women from street harassment and stalking.

Our political editor Andrew Woodcock has more details:

Chiara Giordano15 March 2021 16:55

MPs should be ‘dialling this down, not trying to raise the temperature’, says Ian Duncan Smith

Conservative MP and former leader of the party Sir Iain Duncan Smith has said all MPs should be “dialling this down, not trying to raise the temperature”.

Sir Iain told the Commons that some of the actions on Saturday night were “shameful”, adding: “But it ill behoves politicians to get up, pass judgement on what happened without all the evidence.

“I was contacted by a female police officer today to tell me of what happened to her on that night. She was threatened, she was told that she should have been murdered, not Sarah Everard, and that she was manhandled.

“I simply say on all sides we should be dialling this down, not trying to raise the temperature by calling for resignations etcetera.”

Priti Patel replied: “I think the point about not pre-judging is absolutely right.”

Chiara Giordano15 March 2021 16:44

Theresa May calls for ‘justice’ for Sarah Everard and says legislation is ‘not enough’

Former Prime Minister Theresa May has called for “justice” for Sarah Everard, as well as a recognition that legislation is not enough to end violence against women and girls.

Addressing the Commons, Ms May said Home Secretary Priti Patel was “right to remind us that behind the events of Saturday lies the tragic death of Sarah Everard, a bright young woman dearly loved by her family and friends and I join [Ms Patel] and other members of this House in saying that my thoughts and prayers are with Sarah’s family and friends at this time.

“We want justice for Sarah, we also want women to be able to feel and be safe on our streets and in their homes.”

“So does [Ms Patel] agree that we must redouble our efforts to make sure that the Government’s excellent Domestic Abuse Bill reaches the statute book as anticipated next month?” she asked.

However, she said lawmakers should “also recognise that legislation is not enough and that if we are going to eradicate violence against women and girls, we need a change of attitudes and that is about dealing with perpetrators, changing their behaviour, but also teaching young men and boys about respect for women and about what is or is not acceptable in a relationship?”

The home secretary said she wanted to “pay tribute” to Mrs May for her own “work and leadership” around addressing domestic abuse and violence against women and girls.

She said the Domestic Abuse Bill was a “landmark” bill that would aim to address domestic violence, but also said that Mrs May was right that there needed to be a wider societal shift.

“Legislation can only go so far,” Ms Patel agreed.

Chantal Da Silva15 March 2021 16:32

Priti Patel rejects criticism that Domestic Abuse Bill does not mention women

Priti Patel rejected a claim that the Domestic Abuse Bill does not make mention of women.

Addressing comments made by Nick Thomas -Symonds MP, the Home Secretary said: “That is another accusation that I will reject, primarily because it is a criminal law and sentencing Bill which applies equally to everybody.”

Ms Patel further noted that bills around criminal justice and sentencing do not directly mention women either.

Chantal Da Silva15 March 2021 16:25

Home Secretary says ‘no one should prejudge’ what happened at vigil until review concludes

Home Secretary Priti Patel has urged lawmakers to avoid making judgments about what unfolded at the vigil for Sarah Everard on Saturday until a review into the incident comes to a conclusion.

Addressing MPs, Ms Patel said that while the scenes from the vigil, which saw police officers forcibly remove attendees from a bandstand and push some to the ground, were “upsetting”, she said: “No one should prejudge anything in terms of conduct until we absolutely see what has happened”.

The home secretary has requested a “lessons learned” review into the policing of Saturday’s vigil.

She further said that the need to address violence against women and girls “isn’t just about the government,” asserting that there also needed to be a behavioural and cultural change in the UK.

“That’s culture across society, that’s culture with men as well and we should be upfront with that,” she said.

Chantal Da Silva15 March 2021 16:19

Priti Patel urges people not to participate in protests during pandemic

Priti Patel has urged UK residents not to participate in large gatherings or attend protests while Covid-19 restrictions remain in effect.

Addressing MPs, she said: “Over the past year during the coronavirus pandemic, the police have been faced with an unenviable and immediately difficult task. It is one for the most part that they have approached with skill and professionalism, helping to enforce regulations as determined by Parliament with one crucial objective in mind, to save lives.

“This House approved those changes by 524 votes to 16 on January 6 this year. Sadly, as of Sunday March 14, more than 125,500 lives have been lost to this horrible virus.

“It is for that reason that I continue to urge everyone for as long as these regulations are in place not to participate in large gatherings or attend protests,” she said.

“The right to protest is the cornerstone of our democracy, but the Government’s duty remains to prevent more lives being lost during this pandemic.”

Chantal Da Silva15 March 2021 16:09

Crackdown on vigil should be ‘red warning light’ on new policing bill, Nick Thomas-Symonds says

Nick Thomas-Symonds MP has said the police crackdown that unfolded at Saturday’s vigil should serve as a “red warning light” to the Government that “ministers should not be rushing through laws cracking down on protest”.

The Labour MP’s comments were in reference to the Government’s new policing bill, which would provide police and the home secretary with new powers over public gatherings and processions faced and has faced growing criticism in the wake of Saturday’s events.

“This government is failing to address violence against women and girls,” he said. And yet, Mr Thomas-Symonds said, the Government wants to “curtail their right to protest about it”.

Chantal Da Silva15 March 2021 16:04

Home Secretary says domestic abuse bill will ‘transform’ response to violence against women

Home Secretary Priti Patel has said the Domestic Abuse Bill will “transform” the response to violence against women and girls.

“This will transform our collective response to this abhorrent crime,” she said, addressing MPs on Monday.

Ms Patel acknowledged: “We all know action is needed to improve the outcome of rape cases.”

She said the bill would build “on other measures we have put forward”.

The new bill seeks to “improve the effectiveness of the justice system in providing protection for victims of domestic abuse and bringing perpetrators to justice,” the government says in a fact sheet online. Part of that effort will include creating a statutory definition of domestic abuse that will also emphasise that domestic abuse is not just physical violence, but can also include emotional, coercive and economic abuse.

It also aims to “strengthen the support for victims of abuse by statutory agencies”.

Chantal Da Silva15 March 2021 15:55

Patel says she understands ‘anger’ prompted by Sarah Everard case

Home Secretary Priti Patel has said that understands the grief and anger that Sarah Everard’s death has prompted.

Addressing MPs on Monday, Ms Patel said she wanted to “acknowledge why Sarah’s death has upset so many”.

She said her “heartache and that of others” could be summed up in five words: “She was just walking home”.

“While the specific circumstances of Sarah’s disappearance are thankfully uncommon,” she said women were reminded of the “steps that we take each day without a second thought to keep ourselves safe”.

“It has rightfully ignited anger at the dangers posed to women,” she said.

Chantal Da Silva15 March 2021 15:48

Cressida Dick has ‘welcomed’ questions on handling of vigil

Home Secretary Priti Patel has said that Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick has “welcomed” questions on the events that unfolded during Saturday’s vigil for Sarah Everard.

Ms Patel has requested a report on the events that unfolded on Saturday.

She said she would provide an update on its findings “in due course”.

Chantal Da Silva15 March 2021 15:46

Home Secretary Priti Patel addresses MPs

Priti Patel is now addressing MPs on the Sarah Everard case and on Met Police’s handling of a vigil on Saturday in her memory.

Chantal Da Silva15 March 2021 15:42

Hundreds of organisations condemn Government’s new policing bill

Hundreds of organisations have signed onto a letter condemning the Government’s new policing bill and urged MPs to block what they warn is a “crackdown on civil liberties”.

Coordinated by Liberty and Friends of the Earth and addressed to the home secretary and justice secretary, the letter sent today said the government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill has been a cause for “profound concern” for the letter’s 245 signatories.

With Parliament set to debate the bill today, the organisations said the new “draconian” police powers included with the bill, as well as how it “criminalises the way of life of nomadic Gypsy and Traveller communities” made the bill unacceptable.

“[T]his Bill represents an attack on some of the most fundamental rights of citizens, in particular those from marginalised communities, and is being driven through at a time and in a way where those who will be subject to its provisions are least able to respond,” the letter states.

In a statement, Gracie Bradley, Liberty’s Interim Director, said: “Protest isn’t a gift from the State – it’s our fundamental right and under human rights law, States have an obligation to facilitate protest not suppress it. Yet this is what this Bill seeks to achieve.”

“Not content with all but banning protest during the pandemic, the Government is now using this public health crisis as cover to make emergency measures permanent. Its new policing Bill is an all-out assault on basic civil liberties,” Ms Bradley said.

“The dangerous policing of the Sarah Everard vigil follows a growing crackdown on protest throughout this pandemic, including the issuing of exorbitant fines to protest organisers in the summer, the aggressive kettling of Black Lives Matter protesters during a pandemic and the suppression of a two-person protest about the appalling and inhumane conditions at Napier Barracks. The prospect of giving police even more power to control and limit our right to protest is incredibly dangerous,” she said.

“We cannot allow these powers to pass. We must stand up for our right to live our lives free from undue state interference and our right to free expression. Now is the time for us to come together to stand up to this aggressive and egregious power grab.”

Chantal Da Silva15 March 2021 15:41

Cressida Dick must resign, Daisy Cooper says, admonishing police chief for ‘appalling’ behavior

Daisy Cooper MP has amplified her party’s calls for Met Police Commissioner Cressida Dick to resign, saying the police chief’s response to outrage over her force’s handling of Saturday’ vigil for Sarah Everard has been “appalling”.

Noting the dramatic scenes from the vigil that showed police officers forcibly removing attendees from a bandstand and pushing some to the ground, Ms Cooper, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, said: “Those scenes were disgusting. Cressida Dick needs to take responsibility for that”.

So far, Ms Cooper said, Ms Dick’s response to widespread criticisms over the Met Police’s handling of th event “has been appalling”.

“She has refused to apologise and says she wants to see the Met force come back stronger”.

“This is at a point when women have been consumed by grief and anger for a week now about women’s safety and I don’t believe the Met commissioner is taking it seriously and she’s making matters worse,” Ms Cooper said.

Ms Dick is expected to join Prime Minister Boris Johnson and others for a meeting later today to discuss how to better prevent sexual harassment and violence against women.

The Met commissioner has rejected calls for her resignation, asserting that she is only more determined to lead her organisation following Saturday’s events.

Chantal Da Silva15 March 2021 15:23

No 10 refuses to expand on Priti Patel’s concerns over police response to vigil

Number 10 has said it cannot expand on what Home Secretary Priti Patel meant when she said there will still questions to be answered over the Met Police’s response to the Sarah Everard vigil in Clapham Common on Saturday.

Asked what Ms Patel had meant, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s official spokesperson said: “As you’ve seen and as we’ve said, both the Met and the inspectorate are reviewing how this was handled, so I won’t comment further while it is ongoing.”

“You’ve got what the Home Secretary said yesterday,” he said, according to the Press Association.

The spokesperson added that the government has been working “closely with the National Police Chiefs’ Council and the College of Policing to make sure the right guidance is in place and that police officers know what the rules are and how to enforce them.

“Police have engaged members of the public throughout, they’ve explained the rules, encouraged them to follow the rules and enforced them if needed.”

Chantal Da Silva15 March 2021 14:54

Report calls for ‘common approach’ to tackling sexual violence in Ireland’s higher education system

A new report from a higher education association in Dublin, Ireland, has called for a common approach to preventing and addressing sexual harassment and violence in higher education institutions.

Published by the Technological Higher Education Association (THEA), the Promoting Consent and Preventing Sexual Violence report says that investigations into sexual violence complaints in third-level institutions must be “independent, trauma-informed and fair to all parties”.

It urges the development of general guidance for all institutions that would lay out categories of offences and the appropriate responses across institutions.

“A common approach aids progress,” the report states. “…each institution has a unique mission, context, and community. Therefore, no two institutions’ Action Plans will be identical. Ideally, every institution should have a standalone policy to respond to Sexual Misconduct. These policies may not be identical; however, broad similarities will be advantageous insofar as possible, as students and staff will often engage with, or move between, more than one institution in the sector.”

“While allowing for institutional differences, it is important to ensure that a common standard is met; this will also have practical benefits, avoiding duplication of effort,” it adds.

On Monday, Dublin Lord Mayor Hazel Chu called on government leaders in Ireland to support the report’s findings and provide the necessary resources to see such a common approach enforced.

“If we’re still having this conversation now, and we’re still going to have this conversation next year, then it’s not good enough,” she said, according to the Press Association. “It’s simply not good enough.”

“Last week, we started off the week by celebrating International Women’s Day. Then by the Wednesday, we saw the case, internationally, of how women yet again did not feel safe.

“Sarah Everard, I think what happened with that particular case was it resonated with so many people.

“One in four women may experience sexual violence at some point.

“I can tell you that unless we are willing to address that this is an ongoing problem, and not just a sporadic problem, then these things will never change.”

Ms Chu said that while “on one hand, I am heartbroken that we are again having this discussion,” she was “glad that it is placing on the table”.

Chantal Da Silva15 March 2021 14:30

Police in Wales praised for responding to vigils in ‘sensitive way’

Police in Wales have received praise for responding to vigils held for Sarah Everard over the weekend in a “sensitive way”.

Welsh education minister Kirsty Williams praised police during a press conference in Cardiff, according to PA.

Commenting on the chaotic scenes that unfolded in London’s Clapham Common at a vigil on Saturday, Ms Williams said: “I don’t think anybody that watched those scenes can’t have been shocked by what they saw.”

“Can I say how grateful I am to women and men in Wales who over this weekend also carried out vigils to mark the death of Sarah and the wider issues that that death makes us confront as a society, and the police that oversaw those gatherings in a really respectful way,” she said.

“We have to remember we’re still in the middle of a pandemic and we need people to be cognizant of that,” she said. However, the education minister said: “I would commend both those that wanted to have their voices heard this weekend in Wales, and the police for the sensitive way that that was handled.”

Chantal Da Silva15 March 2021 14:16

Priti Patel’s ‘brutal’ protests ban to blame for vigil crackdown, says ex-Supreme Court judge

Priti Patel is to blame for the police crackdown on the Sarah Everard vigil because of her “brutal” ban on all protests, an ex-Supreme Court Judge has said.

Read more:

Chantal Da Silva15 March 2021 13:56

New protest bill will deepen racial inequality, campaigners warn PM

A new protest bill that demonstrators rallied against yesterday during a vigil held outside Scotland Yard and in Parliament Square will deepen racial inequality, campaigners have warned the prime minister.

In a letter to Boris Johnson, a coalition of criminal justice and race equality organisations urged the PM to reconsider a number of proposals included in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.

Nadine White, The Independent’s Race Correspondent has the story:

Chantal Da Silva15 March 2021 13:51