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UK High Court rules police breached organizers’ rights at Sarah Everand’s vigil

The High Court of Justice in London found The Metropolitan Police breached organizers’ right to protest on Friday in the way police handled a planned vigil for Sarah Everand in 2021.

Sarah Everand was a girl who was murdered in Clapham Common by police officer Wayne Couzens. Reclaim the Streets (RTS) held a vigil for Everand in March 2021, which also served as a protest against violence against women. However, it was discovered that the police had threatened the group with fines of up to £10,000 and possible prosecution if the vigil was held.

RTC has taken legal action against the Metropolitan Police over their handling of the event, claiming the vigil restriction was a breach of their human right to protest. In response to the Everand case, the UK’s Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) announced that five police officers would face misconduct charges following investigations into social media messaging.

In two days audience, RTC accused the police of failing to assess the risk to public health. The High Court of Justice agreed, ruling in favor of RTC. Lord Justice Warby concluded the police failed in their duty to assess whether the RTC had a ‘reasonable excuse’ to hold the vigil. Despite the police’s justification that they complied with COVID-19 regulations for group gatherings at the time, the court found that this had a “chilling effect” on the RTC’s rights.

The final decision was hailed by supporters of the vigil. In a press declaration per RTC, the organization said the decision was “a victory for women”.