Jennette Arnold: The court of public opinion got it wrong about the policing of the Sarah Everard vigil

Jennette Arnold: The court of public opinion got it wrong about the policing of the Sarah Everard vigil

I have spent the last 21 years in public office as a member of the London Assembly scrutinising the work of the Metropolitan Police and holding them to account on behalf of my constituents. During that time, I have never hesitated to call out the actions of individual officers or the system of policing itself where failures have occurred. And although many Londoners will not be pleased to read that Met officers have been found to have “acted appropriately” at the vigil for Sarah Everard that took place earlier this month, I think the court of public opinion has been shown to have got it wrong.

Home Secretary Priti Patel asked Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) to conduct its independent investigation of how the Met handled the gathering following an outcry in response to images of women being handcuffed and removed from the crowd that gathered on Clapham Common. On the key issue of whether the police overreacted, the report’s conclusion is that “officers acted in a measured and proportionate way”.

There is also some criticism of the police. The report says they have lessons to learn about improving internal communications at such events: sadly, such failings on the Met’s part have been frequently revealed during my years of scrutiny work. I also agree with the report’s view that the Met “should have adopted a more conciliatory approach in the aftermath of the event”, rather than getting caught up in the social commentary.

Even so, the report provides a valuable perspective on the work of police services in challenging circumstances. It also identifies the responsibility borne by Parliament for creating a context where rules around Covid lockdown were open to misinterpretation and failed to carry a sufficient level of public support.

One final but very important point: in this age of instant comment the HMICFRS report reminds us that before rushing to judgement we must all take a moment to check our facts.

Jennette Arnold is standing down as a London Assembly Member at the forthcoming elections having served on the body since 2000. In that capacity she has been a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority (2000-2012) and the Assembly’s police and crime committee (2012-2021). Follow Jennette on Twitter.

OnLondon.co.uk provides in-depth coverage of the UK capital’s politics, development and culture. It depends greatly on donations from readers. Give £5 a month or £50 a year and you will receive the On London Extra Thursday email, which rounds up London news, views and information from a wide range of sources, plus special offers and free entry to events. Click here to donate directly or contact davehillonlondon@gmail.com for bank account details.

Categories: Comment

1 Comment

  1. Kyle Harrison says:

    I don’t think the police got it wrong in their actual policing of the event. These things get hijacked by aggressive activist types. But if they had allowed a vigil to go ahead in a controlled way they might have avoided the craziness later in the night. Or at least the police would have actually come away with better PR. If the activists had still shown up later on they would have got the blame more if the police had allowed the daytime vigil.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.