14 March 2022
Leigh & Ors v (1) The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis and (2) Secretary of State for Health and Social Care (Interested Party)  EWHC 527
A year after the kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard by serving Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens, the Divisional Court has given its judgment on the MPS response to the proposed vigil for Ms Everard organised by #ReclaimTheseStreets on Clapham Common, near where she was last seen alive.
The aim of the vigil was to highlight risks to women’s safety and to campaign for a change in attitudes and responses to violence against women. However, it was at a time when Regulations imposed during the Covid-19 pandemic prohibited a gathering of more than 30 persons in a public outdoor place in a Tier 4 area such as London.
MPS would not sanction the plan for the vigil and it was cancelled (as discussed here). The Claimants alleged that this was because the Met had unlawfully thwarted the plan. The Court agreed.
The judgment is a comprehensive victory for the Claimants, hailed by them as a “victory for women” and an “absolute vindication”. It is also a landmark decision in the context of debate as to the impact of the Covid regulations on the fundamental rights and freedoms enshrined in primary legislation pursuant to the HRA. It contains a granular analysis of the requirements of the proportionality assessment to be undertaken in such cases. It has particular resonance given controversial changes to the way police are able to control protests currently being debated in parliament as part of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.
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