Matt Parr, the author of a report on the vigil by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, Fire and Rescue Services, said that there was “no realistic prospect” of a law-abiding protest taking place and that the Met had been right to intervene once it turned into a mass gathering.
He said this was because there were dangers in showing favouritism to particular causes and that it was better for police to show consistency in enforcing the law.
His comments, in an appearance before the Commons Home Affairs Committee, follow the controversy which erupted following the break-up of the vigil on Clapham Common in memory of 33-year-old Ms Everard, whose body was found in Kent woodland after her disappearance on 3 March while walking home along the South Circular. Met officer Wayne Couzens, 48, has been charged with her murder.
Critics, including London Mayor Sadiq Khan, attacked the police action as “unacceptable” but Mr Parr told MPs on Wednesday that police had acted correctly.
“I think that what they did was the best decision. The need for consistency outweighed the idea of making a special case for that particular vigil and effectively ignoring it.
“There are all sorts of reasons that go wider than the particularly shocking case of Sarah Everard.. why there are pitfalls in demonstrating partiality to any cause, regardless of how easy it is to associate and sympathise with it.”
Mr Parr added: “There was no realistic prospect of that vigil being organised in a way that would have allowed the police to stand back. The event morphed into something quite different from what Lambeth Council and Reclaim These Streets had discussed with the Met.
“The Met were alive to the potential for that to happen which was why they weren’t able to give Reclaim These Streets the guarantees they wanted.”
Permission for an organised vigil on 13 March was refused by the Met following intelligence that some protesters attending were likely to ignore social distancing and potentially engage in disorder.
People were allowed, however, to go until 6pm with the Duchess of Cambridge among those turning up to mark Ms Everard’s loss. But the event ended in clashes when a large numbers formed around the bandstand and police intervened to stop breaches of the coronavirus laws banning mass gatherings.