Sarah Everard: Clashes at Clapham Common vigil ‘distressing’ and ‘alarming’, says policing minister

Clashes between police and attendees of a vigil for Sarah Everard were “distressing” and “alarming”, the policing minister has told Sky News.

Kit Malthouse said that officers were “happy” to be held “accountable” by an independent investigation into Saturday night’s chaos.

But he insisted the under-pressure Metropolitan Police commissioner, Cressida Dick, should not resign over the force’s handling of events.

Her officers have been heavily criticised after the ugly scenes on Clapham Common in south London on Saturday, during which police were seen grabbing several women and leading them away in handcuffs.

Asked about those scenes, Mr Malthouse said: “Along with everyone else, I found it very distressing and the pictures were obviously alarming, which is why the home secretary has asked for this independent investigation into what actually happened.

“So that we can hold the police accountable, which I know they’re happy to be so, to make sure everything was done in accordance with the rules.

“I think we have to reflect on the fact that Saturday obviously saw unleashing a huge amount of emotion and anger.

“Not just about the appalling crime that occurred, but about a repressed sense of women’s safety – and that that was in jeopardy and under threat.”

Mr Malthouse said ministers would use a meeting of the government’s crime and justice taskforce on Monday to look at what further action can be taken to protect women and girls and make sure streets are safe.

The meeting is expected to be attended by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Home Secretary Priti Patel, Justice Secretary Robert Buckland, Ms Dick and Max Hill, the director of public prosecutions.

Mr Malthouse declined to add his voice to those calling for Ms Dick to quit over the Met Police’s handling of Saturday night’s vigil.

“I recognise the police are in an incredible difficult position,” he said.

“Throughout this pandemic we’ve asked them to do a job that they’ve never done before.

“To stand between the public, if you like, and this terrible virus in a way that none of us are used to and, certainly, they aren’t as well.

“So that very, very difficult position they’re in needs to be reflected in our contemplation of this.

“In the vast majority of cases the police and the public have managed this situation extremely well between them.”

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