Position of Met Commissioner looks ‘untenable’ following vigil handling, says Welsh police boss
The position of the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police looks “untenable” following the handling of a vigil, according to a police boss.
North Wales PCC Arfon Jones made the comments about Cressida Dick, after the gathering in south London to mourn Sarah Everard.
The handling by the Met has been widely criticised across the political spectrum, with the Home Secretary Priti Patel has asking it a report on what happened, while London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he was “urgently seeking an explanation”.
Officers were seen handcuffing and leading women away from the event, and the police have said four arrests were made at the vigil to “protect people’s safety” and enforce Covid-19 rules.
Several hundred people gathered on Clapham Common yesterday evening to pay tribute to 33-year-old, whose death has sparked a public debate over women’s safety
Arfon Jones said: “I suspect position of Commissioner of the @metpoliceuk Cressida Dick is looking increasingly untenable.”
The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: “The scenes from Clapham Common are unacceptable.
“The police have a responsibility to enforce Covid laws but from images I’ve seen it’s clear the response was at times neither appropriate nor proportionate. I’m contact with the Commissioner & urgently seeking an explanation.”
In response to a public outcry following the events in Clapham Common Assistant Commissioner Helen said: “May I start by extending my deepest condolences to the family and friends of Sarah Everard. Across the Met we are still extremely saddened and shocked by the tragic circumstance of her disappearance and death.
“Earlier tonight, I joined the Commissioner in a candlelit vigil outside New Scotland Yard. I know many thousands of people up and down the nation also held similar vigils in Sarah’s name.
“I recognise that the decision by the organisers to cancel the Reclaim These Streets vigil in Clapham Common was deeply unwelcome news. Even so, given the ever present threat of Coronavirus, this was the right decision to make.
“Today, for over six hours hundreds of people came to lay flowers and pay their respects to Sarah in Clapham Common in a safe and lawful way.
“Around 6pm, more people began to gather close to the bandstand within the Common. Some started to make speeches from the bandstand. These speeches then attracted more people to gather closer together.”At this point, officers on the ground were faced with a very difficult decision. Hundreds of people were packed tightly together, posing a very real risk of easily transmitting Covid-19.
“Police must act for people’s safety, this is the only responsible thing to do. The pandemic is not over and gatherings of people from right across London and beyond, are still not safe.”
She added: “Those who gathered were spoken to by officers on a number of occasions and over an extended period of time. We repeatedly encouraged those who were there to comply with the law and leave. Regrettably, a small minority of people began chanting at officers, pushing and throwing items.
“After speaking with officers, the vast majority of people quickly left. Four arrests have been made for public order offences and for breaches of the Health Protection Regulations.
“Part of the reason I am speaking to you tonight is because we accept that the actions of our officers have been questioned.
“We absolutely did not want to be in a position where enforcement action was necessary. But we were placed in this position because of the overriding need to protect people’s safety.
“Let me end by saying that across the Met, we review every single event that we police to see if there are lessons that can be learnt. This one will be no different.”