Six people facing court action over unpaid Covid fines at Sarah Everard vigil

Hundreds of people had attended a spontaneous gathering in Clapham Common, south London.

01 June 2022

Six people are facing court proceedings over Covid fines issued during a vigil for murdered Sarah Everard, the Metropolitan Police have confirmed.

Four of the group were listed to be dealt with under the Single Justice Procedure, a paper-based process not held in open court, at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday.

Another two have been listed at the same court on June 15.

Hundreds of people attended a spontaneous gathering in Clapham Common, south London, after a planned socially distanced event proposed by Reclaim These Streets (RTS) was cancelled when organisers were threatened by the force with £10,000 fines.

A crowd of people holding their mobile phones up with the torches switched on, facing a line of police officers.
Crowds at the vigil in memory of Sarah Everard on Clapham Common (Victoria Jones/PA)

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.

News of the four cases due to be dealt with on Wednesday was greeted with anger.

Jamie Klingler from RTS responded on Twitter: “Why does the @metpoliceuk have a vendetta against women protesting a woman killed by a serving officer?

“How is wasting more public money prosecuting women that attended the vigil going to rebuild trust?”

Dania Al-Obeid, 27, from Stratford, east London, Vivien Hohmann, 20, from Clapham, Ben Wheeler, 21, from Kennington, south London, and Kevin Godin-Prior, 68, from Manchester, were all named on the court papers.

They are all accused of participating in a gathering on March 13 2021 at Clapham Common Bandstand of more than two people in a public outdoor place when London was under Tier 4 restrictions.

Marketing manager Ms Al-Obeid, who is taking legal advice over the fine, told the PA news agency: “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 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.”

Sarah Everard
Sarah Everard (Family handout/PA)

The Met said Jade Spence, 33, of Lambeth, and Jenny Edmunds, 32, of Lewisham, are due to be dealt with on June 15.

All six cases have been brought to court because the fines issued for alleged breaches of Covid rules were not paid, the force said.

A total of nine fixed penalty notices were issued. Two were paid, and the other was dropped with no further action.

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 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”.

A group of women standing outside the Royal Courts of Justice
Solicitor Theodora Middleton (centre) after an earlier High Court hearing (Yui Mok/PA)

On Tuesday, the Met were refused permission to appeal for a second time against a High Court ruling which concluded it breached the rights of the RTS organisers.

Jessica Leigh, Anna Birley, Henna Shah and Ms 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.

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”.

Dismissing the appeal bid, Lord Justice Holroyde said in a court order that, while he recognised the application of principles guiding the right to protest “may be difficult for the police, and that the difficulty may be increased when considering a prospective event”, they were “clear” and no separate guidance was needed.

Couzens, 49, is serving a whole-life sentence after admitting Ms Everard’s kidnap, rape and murder.

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