Labour’s London Mayor Sadiq Khan has been blasted for his criticism of the Metropolitan Police’s handling of the Sarah Everard vigil after a review by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services, led by Sir Thomas Winsor, cleared the force of wrongdoing.
The report said that coppers acted “appropriately” and that the response had been “measured” and “justified”, but admitted that the media fallout had been a “public relations disaster” for the force.
Sadiq Khan had been at the forefront of public criticism of the handling of the protest, taking to Twitter to say: “The scenes from Clapham Common are unacceptable. The police have a responsibility to enforce Covid laws but from images I’ve seen it’s clear the response was at times neither appropriate nor proportionate. I’m contact with the Commissioner & urgently seeking an explanation.”
Responding to the criticism of politicians in the wake of the event, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary Matt Parr said: “Condemnation of the Met’s actions within mere hours of the vigil – including from people in positions of responsibility – was unwarranted, showed a lack of respect for public servants facing a complex situation, and undermined public confidence in policing based on very limited evidence.
“After reviewing a huge body of evidence – rather than a snapshot on social media – we found that there are some things the Met could have done better, but we saw nothing to suggest police officers acted in anything but a measured and proportionate way in challenging circumstances.
“A minute’s silence was held for Sarah at 6pm, after which a peaceful and sombre vigil turned into something else – a rally with dense crowds and little or no social distancing.
“We concluded that the Met was right to recognise the need to be seen to be consistent in its policing of all events and gatherings.”
He was joined in his commentary on knee-jerk reactions to the policing effort by Metropolitan Police Federation chairman Ken Marsh, who said; “The outcome of this report comes as no surprise. We said on the very evening that politicians of all parties should make themselves aware of all the facts before rushing to judgment and making statements.
“But these armchair critics on their Saturday night sofas did not. The knee-jerk commentary from politicians of all parties – who as the report states were reacting to a snapshot on social media rather than the facts – has made the already difficult job of our colleagues in London incredibly harder. And more dangerous. And for that these people should be ashamed.”
He went on to say that “this was outrageous behaviour from those who should know better and we trust as elected officials.
“We now call on these politicians to make themselves accountable and to apologise to our hard-working colleagues for the damage they have done.”
His Conservative opponent in May’s mayoral election race, Shaun Bailey, has blasted Khan for his knee-jerk reaction to the handling of the protest, saying: “This independent report makes it clear that the mayor has a number of questions to answer.
“First of all, why did he immediately throw the police under a bus without knowing the full story behind the events?
“Why did he refuse to take responsibility for the event and policing at Clapham Common, despite being in charge of policing in London?
“And how will he address these failings in the coming weeks and months?
“These are serious questions. And I don’t believe the mayor can answer them.”