Thursday, April 15, 2021
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Sarah Everard vigil: High Court judge rules it is ‘inappropriate’ for him to intervene in police ban of Reclaim These Streets event

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An hour-long static protest – dubbed ‘Reclaim These Streets’ – on Clapham Common has been planned for tomorrow night, in the area where the 33-year-old marketing executive was last seen alive.

But the event was plunged into doubt on Thursday night when MetPolice officers said the mass gathering would fall foul of coronavirus restrictions and should not take place.

The organisers, Jessica Leigh, Anna Birley, Henna Shah, and Jamie Klinger, went to the High Court on Friday, asking a judge to declare that the police force had failed to consider the rights to freedom or expression and protest when opposing the vigil.

Mr Justice Holgate refused to make the declaration but said he hopes the emergency court hearing had helped to “clarify” the laws around policing of protests during the pandemic.

He said the vigil organisers and their solicitors may have further talks with the police about the legality of the vigil, but added: “That’s not a matter on which the court should comment”.

The judge was also at pains to point out he had only been asked to consider a declaration on the law, rather than grant an injunction against the police or rule on the legality of the vigil.

In the aftermath of the ruling vigil organisers said they were in discussions with the Met Police about how it could go ahead safely. However, a statement from the force appeared to say the event cannot go ahead and people should stay at home.

Commander Catherine Roper, the Met’s lead for community engagement, said: “Today’s ruling in the High Court has confirmed that the Metropolitan Police may conclude that attendance at a large gathering could be unlawful. In light of this ruling, our message to those who were looking to attend vigils in London this weekend, including at Clapham Common, is stay at home or find a lawful and safer way to express your views.”

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