Met Police prosecution for Covid breach ‘an insult to memory of Sarah Everard’

·3-min read
Jenny Edmunds (James Manning/PA) (PA Wire)
Jenny Edmunds (James Manning/PA) (PA Wire)

A woman accused of breaching Covid-19 laws by attending a vigil for Sarah Everard has said the Metropolitan Police prosecution against her is an “insult” to the murdered marketing executive’s memory.

Jenny Edmunds is accused of participating in a gathering of more than two people in a public outdoor place in a Tier 4 area – Clapham Common, south London – on March 13 last year.

Edmunds, 32, of Lewisham, south London, appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Friday, speaking only to confirm her name and address and to plead not guilty.

Tier 4 Covid-19 restrictions banned household mixing, aside from support bubbles, and two people meeting in public outdoor places.

People gathered on Clapham Common on March 13 last year (Victoria Jones/PA) (PA Archive)
People gathered on Clapham Common on March 13 last year (Victoria Jones/PA) (PA Archive)

For attending the vigil, she received a £220 fine and was ordered to pay £100 in court costs and a £34 victim surcharge, with 28 days to pay, said Hodge Jones & Allen, a law firm representing Edmunds.

A case management hearing has been set for September 23, with a trial listed for October 28, 31 and November 1 at City of London Magistrates’ Court.

In a statement provided by Hodge Jones & Allen outside court, Edmunds said: “This prosecution is an insult to the memory of Sarah Everard, and all victims of gender-based violence and police brutality.

“It is a waste of public funds and just goes to further prove that the Met is not fit for purpose.”

Sarah Everard (Family Handout/CPS/PA) (PA Media)
Sarah Everard (Family Handout/CPS/PA) (PA Media)

She was one of six people prosecuted by the Met after the event on March 13 last year.

A planned socially distanced event proposed by Reclaim These Streets (RTS) was cancelled when organisers were threatened by the Met with £10,000 fines.

A spontaneous vigil – which followed the kidnap, rape and murder of Ms Everard, 33, by serving Pc Wayne Couzens – but the Met’s policing was heavily criticised after women were handcuffed on the ground and led away by officers.

The Met previously said all six cases were brought to court because fines imposed for alleged breaches of Covid rules had not been paid.

Out of a total of nine fixed penalty notices issued, another two were paid and one was dropped with no further action.

Wayne Couzens (Metropolitan Police/PA) (PA Media)
Wayne Couzens (Metropolitan Police/PA) (PA Media)

A report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services concluded that police “acted appropriately” in dealing with the event, but said it was a “public relations disaster” and described some statements made by members of the force as “tone deaf”.

The Met were twice refused permission to appeal against a High Court ruling which concluded they breached the rights of the RTS organisers.

Jessica Leigh, Anna Birley, Henna Shah and Jamie Klingler argued that decisions made before 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.

In a ruling in March, their claim was upheld by Lord Justice Warby and Mr Justice Holgate, who found the Met’s decisions in the run-up to the event were “not in accordance with the law”.

Couzens, 49, is serving a whole-life sentence after admitting kidnapping, raping and murdering Ms Everard.

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