Law enforcement vs the law: Sarah Everard vigil protester sues the Met police
Alice Gregory - 14 October 2022
On 16 August 2022, Dania Al-Obeid – one of the women arrested for breaching coronavirus restrictions at a vigil for Sarah Everard last year – announced that she would suing the police over a breach of her human rights. Al-Obeid, one of a number of women pursuing legal action against the Met, argued that her arrest constituted a violation of the Human Rights Act.
The vigil, held on 13 March 2021, was peaceful, and the attendees – who were mostly women wearing masks – lit candles in honour of the 33-year-old. The protest was cut short however when the police, who are accused of using excessive force to arrest multiple female attendees, arrived. The move immediately drew criticism. Less than a week before the vigil took place, police in Glasgow city centre had been seen escorting crowds of football fans celebrating Rangers’ win, crowds that were largely comprised of men without masks. Against the backdrop of increasing scrutiny, critics have argued that the inconsistency demonstrated was sufficient to warrant allegations of institutional sexism on the part of the Met.
Al-Obeid was convicted under a single justice procedure, meaning that a magistrate was able to decide on her case without a trial. Later, when she was set to receive a proper hearing, the CPS overturned her case, claiming it was not in the public interest. 45 years since the first marches for the Reclaim the Night movement, women’s legal rights are still extremely fragile. Faith in the legal system among women in the UK is at an all-time low, and if history has taught us anything, it’s that justice for those guilty of wrongdoing is much less likely when victims lose trust in the institutions designed to protect them.