Women must feel their complaints about violence are “properly heard”, the PM has said, after concern about how a vigil for Sarah Everard was policed.
Boris Johnson said footage of officers forcibly removing a number of women from the event was “distressing”. He added it was “fundamental” that women felt listened to and he was “going to make sure that happens”.
Asked if he still had confidence in Met Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick, Mr Johnson said: “Yes I do.” “The reality is that the country is united still in shock and grief about what happened to Sarah Everard and we must do everything we can to find the answers,” Mr Johnson said. “I think the fundamental issue that we have to address as a country, and as a society and as a government is that … women in particular must feel that when they make serious complaints about violence, about assault, that they are properly heard. “We are going to make sure that that happens.”
The prime minister’s comments come after criticism that a new policing bill does not go far enough to address violence against women and girls. The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill will be debated by MPs later.
Ms Everard went missing while walking home from a friend’s house on 3 March. Her body was later found in woodland in Kent and Met Police officer Wayne Couzens, 48, has been charged with the 33-year-old’s kidnap and murder.
Hundreds gathered on London’s Clapham Common on Saturday to lay flowers and pay their respects to Ms Everard. But officers later handcuffed and removed a number of women from the gathering, arresting four people for public order and Covid offences.
The Met has faced widespread criticism for its handling of the event – but Dame Cressida has rejected a call to step down. On Sunday, she said she agreed on the need for a “sober review” but defended how officers responded to the “really big crowd”. “They have to make these really difficult calls and I don’t think anybody should be sitting back in an armchair and saying, ‘Well that was done badly,’ or, ‘I would have done it differently,’ without actually understanding what was going through their minds,” she said.
Home Secretary Priti Patel has instructed the police watchdog, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, to conduct a review of the policing of the event.
Asked on Monday whether he thought Dame Cressida should continue in her role, Mr Johnson said: “Yes I do. And what she’s asked is… that we look at what happened on Saturday night. “The police do have a very, very difficult job. But there’s no question that the scenes that we saw were very distressing and so it is right that Tom Winsor, the inspector of constabulary, should do a full report into it.”