ANGER has erupted after three people were fined for breaking Covid laws at the vigil for murdered Sarah Everard.
Hundreds spontaneously gathered on Clapham Common in South London after a planned socially distanced event proposed by Reclaim These Streets (RTS) was cancelled when organisers were threatened with £10,000 fines by the Metropolitan Police.
The Met's policing of the vigil – following the kidnap, rape and murder of marketing executive Ms Everard, 33, by serving PC Wayne Couzens – was heavily criticised after women were handcuffed on the ground and led away by officers.
And news of six prosecutions brought by the force under the Single Justice Procedure, a paper-based process not held in open court, for alleged breaches of Covid-19 regulations was met with anger last week.
Dania Al-Obeid, 27, from Stratford, East London, Ben Wheeler, 21, from Kennington, South London, and Kevin Godin-Prior, 68, from Manchester, were all convicted in their absence in a behind-closed-doors hearing at Westminster Magistrates' Court last Wednesday.
Each was fined £220 and ordered to pay £100 in court costs and a £34 victim surcharge, with 28 days to pay, the court said on Thursday.
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They were all accused of participating in a gathering at Clapham Common Bandstand on March 13, 2021 of more than two people in a public outdoor place when London was under Tier 4 restrictions.
The decision has been widely blasted on social media.
One Twitter user wrote: “A serious miscarriage of justice and the use of the SJP is affront to the notion of justice itself.”
Another added: “Outrageous. Smells of perversion of course of justice.”
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A third said: “How can this be in the public interest? I just can not understand how they think this will help the ordinary police officer going about their job. This place really is dying, one cut at a time.”
A case management hearing has been scheduled for Vivien Hohmann, 20, from Clapham, later this month, while Jade Spence, 33, of Lambeth, South London, and Jenny Edmunds, 32, of Lewisham, South East London, are due to be dealt with next Wednesday.
Marketing manager Ms Al-Obeid, who is taking legal advice over the fine, told the PA news agency last week: "This isn't about the £200, I've had people come forward and offer to pay this. It's about what this fine represents.
"I've requested any updates regarding the fine to be made via email as I'm not in the country; however, the first I hear of this charge is via the media.
'IT'S SIMPLY NOT FAIR'
"It's been dealt with so poorly from start to finish and I'm just expected to roll over and accept this treatment. I'm considering fighting this as it's simply not fair."
The Met said all six cases have been brought to court because the fines issued for alleged breaches of Covid rules were not paid, with a total of nine fixed penalty notices issued.
Two were paid, and the other was dropped with no further action.
In a police witness statement submitted to the court, officers said Ms Al-Obeid was one of four women who had linked arms at the edge of the bandstand and that she was arrested after repeatedly ignoring police directions to leave.
PC Darryl Mayne said: "I had witnessed Al-Obeid shout aggressive chants regarding officers being 'Murderers'. However, I was unsure whether she was going to physically assault officers once she had realised officers were detaining her.
"I was fully aware of the seriousness and sensitively of the situation and the reasoning for the gathering.
"However, I informed Al-Obeid that I also had to uphold my duty as a serving constable to maintain public health."
CRITICISM OF MET
The Met has already faced criticism of the way it dealt with the vigil and its aftermath.
A report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services concluded that police "acted appropriately" when dealing with the event, but also found it was a "public relations disaster" and described some statements made by members of the force as "tone deaf".
Last Tuesday, the Met were refused permission to appeal for a second time against a High Court ruling which concluded that the force breached the rights of the RTS organisers.
Jessica Leigh, Anna Birley, Henna Shah and Jamie Klingler argued that decisions made 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.
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In a ruling in March, their claim was upheld by Lord Justice Warby and Mr Justice Holgate, who found that 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 Ms Everard's kidnap, rape and murder.
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