Sarah Everard vigil protester sues Met police after conviction

Dania Al-Obeid brings human rights claim after being found guilty of breaching Covid restrictions without court hearing

A woman who was arrested and charged after attending the vigil for Sarah Everard in Clapham last year has launched civil proceedings against the Metropolitan police.

Dania Al-Obeid was convicted for breaching coronavirus restrictions when attending the vigil in 2021 under a single justice procedure (SJP), which allows a magistrate to decide on a case without the need for a court hearing.

She was due to face a full trial later this year before proceedings were halted by the Crown Prosecution Service, on the basis that it was not in the public interest.

On Tuesday, lawyers representing Al-Obeid formally notified the Metropolitan police of her intention to pursue claims for breaches of her rights under the Human Rights Act 1998.

Commenting on the decision to launch civil proceedings, Al-Obeid said she had been “devastated” when she found out she had a criminal record, because the Met were able to convict her under the SJP.

She said: “To be convicted behind closed doors for standing up for my human rights, and our rights just to be safe from violence, felt extremely unjust.

“At the time, I didn’t feel like I could fight it, I felt like shrinking and taking up less space. I started to blame myself for ever speaking up. It brought back some of the terrible experiences in my past, and took me to a dark place, where I didn’t think my voice mattered, or that I even had a right to speak.”

She added: “However, I’m extremely lucky to have a legal team of amazing women who told me my rights and said what was happening was unlawful. That’s why I eventually got the strength to push back.

“I am now, therefore, taking steps to bring a civil claim alongside other women seeking to hold the police accountable for their actions, both at the vigil and since.”

Rachel Harger, a solicitor at Bindmans, who is representing Al-Obeid, said: “The Metropolitan police’s efforts to double down on their attempts to legitimise their policing operation and conduct in and around the Clapham Common vigil is entirely unsurprising, but the fact that they have continued to do so under immense public scrutiny and criticism further illustrates that this is a police force that believes it should be able to act with impunity.

“It is no small feat to take on litigating a comparatively well-resourced publicly funded institution, which is also heavily politically supported by the government of the day. I sincerely hope that the public will come together and support Patsy Stevenson, Dania Al-Obeid and all those who were subjected to such appalling police conduct on 13 March 2021, as they now seek to hold the police accountable in the civil courts.”

The proceedings follow the finding by a high court judge that the Met breached the human rights of the organisers of the planned vigil, specifically the right to freedom of speech and assembly.


Tobi Thomas

The GuardianTramp

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