The Divisional Court has found that the Metropolitan Police breached the Article 10 and 11 ECHR rights of four individuals, founders of the group “Reclaim These Streets”, who sought to organise a vigil in Clapham Common on 13 March 2021 to remember Sarah Everard and all women lost to violence.
In the days leading up to the vigil, the Metropolitan Police had informed the claimants that the vigil would be unlawful as contrary to the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (All Tiers) (England) Regulations 2020 (the “All Tiers Regulations”) and that the claimants could be liable to criminal enforcement. As a result, the claimants cancelled the planned vigil. The claimants argued that, in taking this view, the Metropolitan Police had failed to consider whether the ban was compatible with their Article 10 and 11 ECHR rights. In particular, it is said that in assuming their hands were tied by the All Tiers Regulations, the police failed to apply the Human Rights Act 1998 and the judgment of the Court of Appeal in R (SSHSC) v Dolan.
This substantive judgment follows an urgent interim hearing held on Friday 12 March 2021, the day before the planned vigil. On that occasion, Holgate J had refused to grant a declaration and the organised vigil was subsequently cancelled, albeit many people still attended Clapham Common on 13 March 2021.