Wednesday, 17 August 2022

The March 2021 Clapham Common vigil and the Metropolitan Police


On 3 March 2021, Sarah Everard was kidnapped and murdered by Wayne Couzens who, at the time, was a serving Police Officer with the Metropolitan Police. Couzens was sentenced to life imprisonment with a "whole life" order. His appeal against the whole life order was dismissed - see the judgment of the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division).


With a view to highlighting risks to women's safety, an "informal collective" Reclaim These Streets planned a "vigil" to be held at Clapham Common on 13 March 2021. 

Following communication with the Metropolitan Police, the planned vigil was abandoned.


Reclaim These Streets sought a judicial review claiming that the Police had adopted a legally incorrect interpretation of the Covid Regulations.  

The High Court decided in favour of the claimants - Leigh & Ors v The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis [2022] EWHC 527 (Admin) (11 March 2022) ( evidence showed that the Metropolitan Police failed to perform its legal duty to consider whether the claimants might have had a reasonable excuse for holding a gathering.

Although the Reclaim These Streets vigil was cancelled, an impromptu gathering took place at Clapham Common on 13 March 2021. It was visited by HRH The Duchess of Cambridge - Duchess of Cambridge visits Clapham Common to pay tribute to Sarah Everard | The Independent

A number of prosecutions took place under the Coronavirus Regulations which were in force at the time. The policing of this event attracted considerable criticism. 


Policing of the gathering was the subject of a report by HMICFRS - The Sarah Everard vigil – An inspection of the Metropolitan Police Service’s policing of a vigil held in commemoration of Sarah Everard on Clapham Common on Saturday 13 March 2021 - HMICFRS (

Further legal action against the Police:

An article published on 16 August 2022 by The Guardian reports that legal action against the Metropolitan Police is planned - Sarah Everard vigil protester sues Met police after conviction | Metropolitan police | The Guardian.

" ...  lawyers representing Dania Al-Obeid formally notified the Metropolitan police of her intention to pursue claims for breaches of her rights under the Human Rights Act 1998."

Bindmans LLP - (Solicitors) - are acting for Dania Al-Obeid and they have issued a statement - Dania Al-Obeid notifies the Metropolitan… ( - which reveals that the claims are for alleged breaches by the Police of Al-Obeid's rights under Article 10 (Freedom of Expression) and 11 (Freedom of Assembly). Fuller details of the legal argument are not revealed.

Single Justice Procedure:

Legal proceedings under Coronavirus Regulations were taken against a number of women who took part in the Clapham Common gathering and some convictions were obtained using the Single Justice Procedure introduced by the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015

Controversially, this enables a single Justice of the Peace to try a case on the basis of the papers alone and to do so without sitting in open court.

A previous post - Law and Lawyers: Coronavirus restrictions ~ Single Justice Procedure ( - commented that 

"Whilst SJP is designed to streamline the handling of large numbers of routine cases, it seems problematic to use the procedure to deal with legally untested Regulations which are subject to frequent change as the government response to the pandemic develops."

The 2015 Act contains detailed requirements which have to be followed before SJP may be used. 

The statutory procedure requires that a Single Justice Procedure Notice is served on the accused who is required to indicate a plea (guilty or not guilty). Further, the accused is entitled to serve on the Magistrates' Court notice of "a desire not to be tried in accordance with" SJP.

The Bindmans statement (above) comments that Dania Al-Obeid "was unaware she had received a criminal record until contacted by the media."  How this came about appears to require some explanation.  

Whether any explanation will emerge remains to be seen but the Bindmans statement also reveals that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has decided that it is not in the public interest to continue the criminal case against Al-Obeid.

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