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Everard vigil organisers bring legal challenge over Met Police's handling of their proposed event

ORGANISERS of a planned vigil for Sarah Everard brought a legal challenge against the Met Police today over its handling of their proposed event.

Reclaim These Streets (RTS) planned a socially distanced vigil on March 13 last year for the 33-year-old, who was murdered by former Met officer Wayne Couzens near to where she went missing in Clapham, south London.

The four women who founded RTS withdrew from organising the event after the Met warned that they faced fines of up to £10,000 each as it would be an illegal gathering under lockdown rules in place at the time.

A spontaneous vigil then took place on Clapham Common, with the force facing severe criticism over its policing of the event before being cleared by a police watchdog.

Lawyers for RTS argued today that the Met’s decision in advance of the planned vigil breached their human rights to freedom of speech and assembly and are asking the High Court to make a declaration to that effect.

The four are also seeking damages for the alleged breach, which will be donated to charity if their case is successful.

Claimant Anna Birley said: “We believed then, as we believe now, that we have a very clearly defined right to protest, and that if there was ever a reasonable excuse for exercising this right, it was last March when a young woman was abducted, raped and killed by a then serving police officer.

“At its heart, this case is about the police accepting their responsibility under human rights law to facilitate peaceful protest — rather than their consistent attempts to silence and threaten women.”

Ms Birley said they hoped the ruling will help set “an important precedent” to protect the right to protest.

The hearing will conclude on Thursday.

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