Woman arrested at Sarah Everard vigil says Met reforms can’t be ‘token gesture’ after Cressida Dick exit

A young woman arrested at a vigil for Sarah Everard said she almost cried when she heard Dame Cressida Dick had resigned.

Patsy Stevenson was pinned to the ground during her arrest at the vigil on 13 March on Clapham Common, south London for Ms Everard, who had been kidnapped while walking home before being raped and murdered by a serving Met officer.

A photo of her arrest went viral, which prompted a barrage of criticism against the force for the way they policed the event, which saw other women bundled to the ground and arrested for breaching Covid-19 laws.

On Thursday evening, Dame Cressida announced she was standing down as Met Police Commissioner after London mayor Sadiq Khan made clear he had no confidence in her plans to reform the service.

In a Sunday Times interview, 28-year-old Ms Stevenson said she “stopped in the street and almost cried” when she heard the commissioner had resigned.

She said: “I thought, thank God. Not only has she presided over a force where systemic misogyny and racism has been allowed to thrive, she’s failed to ensure the perpetrators are prosecuted.

Thousands of people attended the vigil to pay their respects and lay flowers in memory of Ms Everard (Photo by Guy Smallman/Getty Images)

“But the fact that she’s out doesn’t fix what’s going on. This can’t be a token gesture. There has to be top-down, radical change.”

The physics student, who has since launched legal action against the police, told the newspaper officers used “brute force” to intimidate her and other women that night, adding she had previously trusted the force and thought police brutality was “rare”.

“It felt like they were telling us not to mess with them. I’d always trusted the police, so it was unexpected and shocking,” Ms Stevenson said.

“I could never have imagined something like that could happen to me… I was confused and terrified.

“All the time I was being handcuffed and taken away I was thinking, this is how Couzens got Sarah into his car. I knew they were going to put me in their van but I didn’t know what they were going to do to me or what they could get away with.”

Covid restrictions were falsely invoked by Met officer Wayne Couzens to arrest Ms Everard as she walked home through Clapham.

Dame Cressida Dick, who was criticised for her handling of the vigil for Ms Everard after it resulted in clashes and arrests, stepped down as Met Police chief on Thursday (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

Reclaim These Streets organised a socially distanced vigil for Ms Everard, but the force told them that the gathering would be breaking lockdown rules and that organisers could face fines of £10,000 so they cancelled the event.

But hundreds still gathered but were dispersed by police, who were accused of manhandling mourners.

Couzens is serving a whole-life order for his crimes, while prosecutors are separately considering charging three of his former colleagues over allegations they shared racist and misogynistic messages with him.

Meanwhile, Mr Khan has said whoever replaces Dame Cressida as Met chief must tackle ‘toxic culture’ in the police to rebuild public trust

He added that he would oppose the new appointment unless they have a “robust plan” to deal with the “cultural problems” that have led to a series of scandals at the force.

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Writing in The Observer, Mr Khan said he was “deeply concerned” that public trust and confidence in the country’s biggest police force “has been shattered so badly”, which he concluded could only be rebuilt with new leadership at the top of the Met.

Mr Khan wrote that he will “work closely” with Priti Patel on the selection of Dame Cressida’s successor.

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