Scotland Yard has issued an apology and paid “substantial damages” to two women who were arrested during the vigil for Sarah Everard. The Metropolitan Police force admitted that it was understandable that Patsy Stevenson and Dania Al-Obeid wished to attend the vigil at Clapham Common due to their belief that women had been badly let down. The women welcomed the apology but stated that they would continue to speak up about police abuse and fight for better policing of violence against women and girls.
Stevenson and Al-Obeid both attended the vigil for Everard, who was kidnapped, raped, and murdered by a serving Metropolitan police officer in March 2021. The arrest of Stevenson, which showed her being pinned to the floor by officers, sparked widespread anger and distrust among women, leading to criticism of the Met and its then commissioner, Cressida Dick.
The two women pursued legal claims against the Met under the Human Rights Act after prosecutors halted the Met’s attempts to prosecute them and four others. The apology and settlement mark the end of this chapter, but Stevenson described the apology as “half-arsed” and highlighted the erosion of citizens’ right to protest.
Al-Obeid, who was handcuffed and arrested at the vigil, discovered that she had been convicted behind closed doors and challenged the conviction on the grounds that she had no opportunity to plead guilty. The case was dropped by the CPS, and Al-Obeid emphasized the need for specialized resources to support victims of violence, criticising the police as re-traumatizing victims.
In letters to the two women, Commander Karen Findlay acknowledged that their right to protest had remained even during COVID-19 restrictions, but admitted that their arrests caused understandable anger, frustration, and alarm. The settlements come after a review by Baroness Casey exposed the Met’s defensive and inward-focused behavior, both in their handling of the vigil and their decision to pursue those who were arrested.
The solicitors representing Stevenson and Al-Obeid confirmed that the Met had paid substantial damages and expressed hope that other women, especially survivors of violence, would be encouraged to hold the police accountable. A spokesperson for the Met stated that a protracted legal dispute was not in the best interest of any party and that reaching an agreed settlement was the most appropriate decision.