News World British police under fire after vigil for London woman Sarah Everard

British police under fire after vigil for London woman Sarah Everard

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The killing of a London woman earlier this month and the policing of a vigil to remember her continues to shake the British establishment as more details emerge about what happened at the weekend ceremony.

London police chief Dame Cressida Dick was due to meet Prime Minister Boris Johnson and MPs on Monday to discuss ways to protect women from violence following the murder of Sarah Everard, who first went missing while walking home on March 3.

Ms Everard’s fate became all the more shocking after a London police officer was charged with her kidnapping and murder on Friday.

A woman who attended the Saturday vigil and was pinned to the ground by police officers – seen in an image that went viral online – said on Monday that she was only there to light a candle.

Speaking about the incident on UK television, Patsy Stevenson said she did not understand why she was “pushed to the ground so forcefully” and was “terrified” by her ordeal.

“It happened very quickly and I was only there to lay a candle down, I did not expect that to happen,” she said.

The vigil, planned by women’s rights campaigners, was cancelled by the organisers after London’s Metropolitan Police threatened the group with fines and prosecution under legislation restricting social contact due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But hundreds of women and men nevertheless went to pay their respects, which ended in tense exchanges between the police and the attendees.

The Metropolitan Police has since been accused by MPs, campaigners and citizens for being too heavy handed.

Dame Dick has refused to step down as police chief despite London Mayor Sadiq Khan describing the force’s response as “unacceptable” and several calls for her resignation from politicians.

UK Home Secretary Priti Patel told MPs on Monday while she found footage and images of officers pinning women down and arresting them to be “upsetting,” she added the government supports officers and the work they do.

“This government backs our police in fighting crime and keeping the public safe but in the interest of providing greater assurance and ensuring public confidence, I have asked Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary to conduct a full, independent lessons learned review,” she told MPs in parliament.

Mr Johnson meanwhile told reporters he still has confidence in Dame Dick and citizens should still have confidence in the police.

“The police do have a very, very difficult job,” he said on Monday.

“There’s no question that the scenes that we saw were very distressing and so it is right that Tom Winsor, the inspector of constabulary, should do a full report into it.”

“We’ve got to recognise that the tragedy and the horrific crime that we have seen in the case of Sarah Everard has triggered, unleashed a wave of feeling from women who do worry about their safety at night,” he said.

-AAP

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