In a recent emotional interview with the BBC, Patsy Stevenson, a woman who was arrested at the Sarah Everard vigil in 2021, revealed that she still experiences trauma and nightmares related to her arrest and the police’s handling of the situation. Stevenson, along with fellow protester Dania Al-Obeid, sued the Metropolitan Police (Met) over their treatment during the vigil, and the force has since agreed to pay damages to both women, signaling the end of their legal battle.
Stevenson described the past few years as “overwhelming” and expressed her relief that the case has concluded. However, she also stated that the Met had not been fully accountable for their actions. Stevenson explained that she had never attended a public demonstration before the vigil at London’s Clapham Common in March 2021. She attended the event with a friend to pay tribute to Sarah Everard, who was tragically kidnapped, raped, and murdered by a police officer, Wayne Couzens.
During the vigil, as the situation escalated, Stevenson found herself against a railing, surrounded by police officers and a crowd of onlookers with cameras. Despite her fears, she, along with three other women, chose to stay in solidarity.
The Sarah Everard vigil, which was a pre-planned and socially distanced event, had been canceled by the Met due to lockdown restrictions. Despite the cancellation, people, including Catherine, Princess of Wales, attended throughout the day. By evening, the vigil saw confrontations between police and some attendees.
In letters to Stevenson and Al-Obeid, Karen Findlay, commander for major events and public order policing for London, acknowledged their motivations for attending the vigil, which included expressing grief, anger, concern, and dissatisfaction over Sarah Everard’s tragic death. Findlay also recognized the fundamental right to protest but highlighted the challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic in balancing public health risks.
While both women welcomed the settlement, Stevenson emphasized that she would have liked to see more accountability from the Met, as she believed there was no reason for her arrest. She also expressed her hope that this settlement would be a significant step forward in their campaign.
Dania Al-Obeid, a survivor of abuse who was one of six protesters prosecuted by the Met for allegedly breaking lockdown rules, described the period after her arrest as “terrifying” and emotionally challenging. She explained that she faced questions about her motives for attending the vigil and accusations of “hijacking” the event. Al-Obeid expressed that the apology and settlement were monumental moments, making her feel heard and seen.
The Met Police issued a statement, acknowledging that the vigil took place in extraordinary circumstances and defending the actions of individual officers as appropriate. They stated that a protracted legal dispute was not in anyone’s interest and recognized the distress experienced by the complainants.
Neither the Met nor Bindmans, the law firm representing the two women, disclosed the amount paid out in the settlement. Last year, organizers of the vigil pursued separate legal action, resulting in a High Court ruling that the Met had breached their rights and acted unlawfully. Additionally, the Crown Prosecution Service dropped charges against six protesters accused of breaking lockdown rules.
The emotional toll and trauma experienced by Stevenson and Al-Obeid have shed light on the complexities surrounding public protests and policing, particularly in cases involving women’s rights and safety.