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Met Police slammed for secrecy over cost of failed Sarah Everard vigil appeals

The Met has claimed it would breach the data protection rights of two external lawyers used by the force to fight the case.

The Met Police has been slammed for refusing to say how much it spent on two failed appeals against protesters who organised a vigil for Sarah Everard.

The force contested a ruling by High Court judges that it had acted unlawfully by threatening Reclaim These Streets (RTS) with fines of £10,000 and possible prosecution if the planned vigil on Clapham Common went ahead in March last year, during a Covid lockdown.

But the Met’s appeal was dismissed twice, with judges saying it case involved “selective and misleading analysis” and had “no arguable basis”.

Now the embattled police force is refusing to say how much it spent in external legal fees for these fruitless appeals, saying it would be unfair on the lawyers involved and breach their data protection rights.

Jamie Klingler, an activist with Reclaim These Streets, said the public had a right to know how much of its money had been spent, and that the Met was “covering itself at every turn”.

RTS pulled out of organising the vigil after the threats from the Met, but it went ahead anyway and saw police condemned for their heavy-handed tactics.

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RTS then took the Met to court over its handling of the event and won, leading to the Met’s appeal on grounds the ruling had “potential implications in other circumstances”.

Klingler said RTS spent £230,000 plus VAT on legal costs.

“For 15 months the Met refused to take accountability for their actions, asking permission to appeal and then – upon being told that their grounds for appeal were hopeless by High Court judges – still wasting public money to appeal that decision to the court of appeals where they were denied again,” Klingler told The Big Issue.

“As one of those taxpayers, I want to know how much money was wasted fighting us. We deserve someone to be accountable for those foolhardy decisions. The fact that they continue to fight FOI requests on various grounds continues the Met’s legacy of covering themselves at every turn rather than learning from huge errors in judgement.”

The Big Issue submitted a Freedom of Information request, and a subsequent internal review, to the Met Police to discover how much public money had been spent on the case and the failed appeals. Both were refused.

The Met has claimed it would breach the data protection rights of two external lawyers used by the force to fight the case.

“It took us months of crowdfunding to reach the threshold for the judicial review but there is no transparency about just how much money the Met wasted on our entire case,” Klingler said. 

“Nor how much more money that they are wasting on vindictively prosecuting some of the attendees of the vigil – which was a decision made after they lost to us.”

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