UK PM vows to tackle violence against women as outrage grows

Boris Johnson has also promised several reviews into the policing of a vigil for London resident Sarah Everard

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Britain’s prime minister vowed on Sunday to take action to protect women after a national outpouring of outrage over the death of Sarah Everard.

Boris Johnson also promised several reviews into the policing of a vigil for the London resident, 33, whose body was found on March 10.

At the memorial, on Saturday night, male officers were seen scuffling with and restraining female demonstrators.

Mr Johnson will hold a meeting of his crime and justice task force on Monday to discuss violence against women and girls.

He said the UK capital’s police force and a watchdog would conduct separate reviews into the handling of the memorial.

“Like everyone who saw it I was deeply concerned about the footage from Clapham Common on Saturday night,” he said, referring to the south London park in which the protest took place.

On Sunday, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick defended her officers’ actions and said she didn’t intend to resign.

She faced heavy criticism for the way police treated some protesters during the vigil, for which hundreds defied coronavirus restrictions to protest violence against women and girls.

The event ended with several arrests, and many questioned whether officers were too heavy-handed.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said scenes of the clashes were “upsetting”.

The capital’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, said the police response was “at times neither appropriate nor proportionate.”

Both said they were not satisfied with the force’s report of events and were seeking a full and independent investigation.

Arrests at Sarah Everard vigil after Duchess of Cambridge visit

Arrests at Sarah Everard vigil after Duchess of Cambridge visit

Police were seen scuffling with some women at the event, and one woman was seen pinned to the ground by two officers.

Video widely shared on social media showed a woman was pulled up from the ground by officers who then shoved her from the back.

Several women were led away in handcuffs as others chanted “Shame on you” at police.

The force later said four people were arrested for breaching public order and coronavirus regulations.

On Sunday, Ms Dick, who is the first woman to head the London force, said she was personally appalled by the attack on Everard and was more determined than ever to lead the organisation.

She said she fully understood the strength of feeling in response to the case, but stressed that Saturday’s vigil was an unlawful gathering and officers had been put in a “very difficult position” trying to police a protest during a pandemic.

Ms Dick said that as big crowds gathered, officers needed to act to counter the considerable risk to people’s health. She said she welcomed a review into her force’s operations.

Earlier on Saturday an impromptu memorial with flowers and candles sprang up around the bandstand.

Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, was briefly among those paying tribute, following a week dogged by controversy for the Royal Family after Meghan Markle's incendiary Oprah Winfrey interview.

Wayne Couzens appears in court

Police officer Wayne Couzens, 48, earlier on Saturday appeared in court in London charged with Everard’s kidnap and murder.

Police officer charged with kidnap and murder in Sarah Everard death

Police officer charged with kidnap and murder in Sarah Everard death

The case has led many women and girls to share their fears of walking alone and experiences of being harassed or attacked by men in public, with calls for more action to be taken to address gender-based violence and abuse.

London's police had faced criticism over Saturday's vigil cancellation and organisers said it would have been safe and legal.

“We take no joy in this event being cancelled but it is the right thing to do given the real and present threat of Covid-19,” Commander Catherine Roper, the Met’s lead for community engagement, said on Friday.

She said the police force understood the frustration of the cancellation but there were other ways to mourn in a safe way.

While some planned attendees arranged online events and doorstep tributes in lieu of the cancelled memorial, others were less compliant.

“To all those still thinking of heading to Clapham Common at 6pm tonight: we will be there! Please bring your sadness and your rage,” said anti-abuse campaign group Sisters Uncut in a post on Twitter.

England is in a national lockdown to stem the Covid-19 pandemic and people cannot leave or be outside their homes unless they have a “reasonable excuse.” They may do so alone or with only one other person.