The Metropolitan Police have confirmed they are to charge six people over unpaid Covid fines issued during the spontaneous vigil for Sarah Everard, the woman murdered by a serving Met police officer.
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 the 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. The Met’s policing of the vigil – following the kidnap, rape and murder of marketing executive Ms Everard, 33, by serving PC Couzens – was heavily criticised after women were handcuffed 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.”
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”.
Couzens, 49, is serving a whole-life sentence after admitting Ms Everard’s kidnap, rape and murder.
For more stories from where you live, visit InYourArea.