Prosecutors have sensationally halted the Met Police's 'absurd' efforts to go after the people who attended the vigil for Sarah Everard.After a vigil
After a vigil organised by new campaign group Reclaim These Streets was aborted following threats of £10,000 fines, a spontaneous vigil took place at Clapham Common which brought together hundreds of protesters throughout the day – including the Duchess of Cambridge.
Six protesters, including Dania Al-Obeid and Jeni Edmunds, were accused of flouting Covid rules by attending the vigil but the Met were vilified by the public for their ‘absurd and damaging’ attempts to target these individuals.
But the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) notified lawyers last week that it was to ‘discontinue’ police attempts to criminalise the six – who attended the March 13 vigil last year – as it was not in the public interest, The Guardian has reported.
The hugely significant victory deals a humbling blow to new commissioner Mark Rowley whose force were insistent on prosecuting the women fighting for women’s safety after Everard was murdered by a serving Met officer Wayne Couzens.
Everard was abducted by Couzens, 49, on her way home in south London but the former disgraced officer now faces a whole-life sentence after driving the 33-year-old woman out of the capital where she was raped and murdered.
The Met were heavily criticised by the public after they broke up crowds, arrested protesters and trampled on tribute flowers
Couzens had pretended to be enforcing Covid rules to get Everard into his vehicle.
Dania Al-Obeid, who was handcuffed and arrested at the vigil, informed the Met that she would be launching legal action over the way the vigil was policed, including how she was treated.
She said: ‘This is a victory in its own right but it doesn’t hold the Met accountable for their actions at the vigil or for their decisions to criminalise me and others for standing up and speaking out over a year later.’
Abuse survivor Dania Al-Obeid was arrested and handcuffed at the March 13 vigil on Clapham Common in 2021
Jeni Edmunds was also targeted by the Met for attending the vigil and has questioned the force’s abuse of power. Pictured: At Westminster Magistrates’ Court, London, for a case management hearing to challenge her Covid fine she received
Jeni Edmunds, who was another one of the six targeted, was happy with the decision but questioned the abuse of power that the Met used.
‘That police used the same power abused to coerce Sarah Everard to her murder to arrest mourners at her vigil speaks volume,’ she said.
Ms Edmunds, who works at a legal charity Inquest, said she attended the vigil in response to the behaviour of Met officers towards murdered sisters Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry as well as Sarah Reed who killed herself following a police assault.
Sarah Everard, 33, was raped and killed by a serving Met Police officer Wayne Couzens as she walked home in south London on March 3, 2021
In response to the prosecutors dropping the attempts to criminalise protesters, Assistant Commissioner Louisa Rolfe of the Met told MailOnline: ‘We know how important it was for people to remember Sarah Everard and voice their anger.
Disgraced former Met officer Wayne Couzens was handed a life-long sentence
‘Officers took very seriously their duty to safeguard the public during the pandemic and to balance this with the rights of individuals.
‘The decision to pursue a prosecution in these circumstances is entirely a matter for the CPS.’
Ms Al-Obeid, 27, from Stratford, east London, Vivien Hohmann, 20, from Clapham, Ben Wheeler, 21, from Kennington, south London, and Kevin Godin-Prior, 68, from Manchester, were all convicted behind closed doors under the Single Justice Procedure.
Unrepentant Met cops justified the arrests by claiming the gathering had become an ‘anti-police protest’ and they felt ‘distress’.
Ms Al-Obeid, a marketing manager, was ‘devastated’ after being convicted behind closed doors as she felt she could not even fight it.
She was due to face trial before the CPS U-turn after arguing that she had not been given a platform to plead not guilty – along with the others.
Protesters who attended Sarah Everard’s vigil clashed with the Met Police after officers break up crowds
The Met were heavily criticised for breaking up crowds and arresting protesters on Clapham Common as they trampled on flowers laid out as tributes.
Pippa Woodrow, barrister for Ms Al-Obeid and Ms Edmunds, said on social media: ‘As I say, I’m delighted for my clients, but there’s a lesson here. Protest is indispensable to our democracy and values. These cases provide an insight into what happens when we lose sight of that. Powers used to silence those we don’t like can and are turned on those we do.’
The barrister is hopeful that the Met will now focus its resourced towards protecting women from violence as opposed to attempting to silence those who speak up against it.
More than a year on from the vigil, the high court rules that Scotland Yard had not considered the human rights of freedom of speech. It also highlighted that Covid laws had been misinterpreted at the time.
But this did not stop the Met following through with their attempted to convict the six protesters.
Ms Al-Obeid has raised £6,000 as she looks to take on the force and launch legal action against them – following suit of Patsy Stephenson who was famously pictured being handcuffed and held down by officers at the same vigil , although she was not one of the six that the Met came after.
Patsy Stevenson also launched legal action against the Met after she was held down by two male officers at the vigil
This is the moment that two officers detained Ms Stevenson in what became a widely recognised image which represented the Met’s treatment of women and protesters at the vigil