The four women who founded RTS and planned the vigil brought a legal challenge against the force over its handling of the event, which was also intended to be a protest about violence against women.
Jessica Leigh, Anna Birley, Henna Shah and Jamie Klingler argued that decisions made by the force in advance of the planned vigil amounted to a breach of their human rights to freedom of speech and assembly, and said the force did not assess the potential risk to public health.
Sign up for our new free Indy100 weekly newsletter
The Met defended the claim brought by Reclaim These Streets and argued there was no exception for protest in the coronavirus rules at the time, and that it had “no obligation” to assess the public health risk.
In a ruling on Friday, two senior judges upheld their claim, finding that the Met’s decisions in the run-up to the event were “not in accordance with the law”.
In a statement published on Twitter, a Reclaim These Streets spokesperson said that “today’s judgement is a victory for women”.
BREAKING: We have won our High Court case against the @metpoliceukpic.twitter.com/1zMua3PQc2
— Reclaim These Streets (@Reclaim These Streets)
The statement continued: “We came together, one year and one day ago, to organise a vigil on Clapham Common because Sarah Everard went missing from our neighbourhood.
“We felt sad and afraid. We were angry that women still weren’t safe and we were tired of the burden to stay safe always weighing on our shoulders. We organised it because as women we needed a space to stand together in solidarity, grief, defiance.
“And above all we organised it because it’s wrong that women face violence and harassment every single day.”
The group also hopes that the police “learn some important lessons”.
“If the police appeal this decision, we think it would further erode women’s trust in the force. Instead of wasting taxpayers’ money on an appeal, we hope that they will invest the funds in measures that tackle misogyny and keep women in London safe.”
Today’s ruling has been roundly welcomed on Twitter:
An incredible result and all down to the incredible people at @ReclaimTS https://twitter.com/reclaimts/status/1502230918513278977\u00a0\u2026
Women were laying flowers and lighting candles and they were net with brutal violence by the Met Police.\n\nThere must now be accountability with the Metropolitan Police and the Home Secretary must withdraw the #PolicingBill now.https://twitter.com/reclaimts/status/1502230918513278977\u00a0\u2026
Congratulations! Brilliant news for women & Justice. Especially at a time we are facing greater curbs on freedom to protest. #policebillhttps://twitter.com/reclaimts/status/1502230918513278977\u00a0\u2026
A judge has ruled that the Met Police breached the organisers of Sarah Everard vigil\u2019s rights to protest. \n\nWomen were silenced as the force considered \u2018perceived reputational risks\u2019 rather than public health.\n\nA stark reminder as we face tougher laws against protest in the UK.https://twitter.com/reclaimts/status/1502230918513278977\u00a0\u2026
In a Met Police statement released today Assistant Commissioner Louisa Rolfe said: “The Met worked very hard in challenging circumstances to interpret and apply the regulations lawfully and proportionately, despite numerous changes during the pandemic.”
Rolfe added that they are “considering the judgement very carefully” before deciding whether or not to appeal the court’s decision as the judgement may impact how proportionality assessments are carried out in the future, beyond policing the pandemic.
In a summary of today’s ruling, Lord Justice Warby said: “The relevant decisions of the [Met] were to make statements at meetings, in letters, and in a press statement, to the effect that the Covid-19 regulations in force at the time meant that holding the vigil would be unlawful.
“Those statements interfered with the claimants’ rights because each had a ‘chilling effect’ and made at least some causal contribution to the decision to cancel the vigil.
“None of the [force’s] decisions was in accordance with the law; the evidence showed that the [force] failed to perform its legal duty to consider whether the claimants might have a reasonable excuse for holding the gathering, or to conduct the fact-specific proportionality assessment required in order to perform that duty.”
With reporting by PA.
Have your say in our news democracy. Click the upvote icon at the top of the page to help raise this article through the indy100 rankings.