Police Chief Says Kate Middleton's Visit To Sarah Everard's Vigil Was Legal Because She Was 'Working'
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When asked on BBC Radio Four's Today programme whether the Metropolitan Police were aware of the Duchess of Cambridge's visit to Clapham Common, Dame Cressida said: "The Met did know, absolutely, but of course we take all sorts of precautions to make sure that we don't unwittingly draw attention to visits like that."
The Duchess of Cambridge has been to the bandstand on #ClaphamCommon to privately pay her respects to #SarahEverard and her family. #Royal #DuchessofCambridge pic.twitter.com/894qJzB3RR
- Dickie Arbiter :flag_gb: (@RoyalDickie) March 13, 2021
Asked if her visit was legal, she replied: "I would imagine that, of course I have not asked her this question, but I think it's worth looking at ... just how strongly people felt, what she said about her attendance there. She's in the course of her duties, she was working.
"... At that point people had a whole series of potential reasonable excuses for being away from home, we didn't all have them.
"I've picked out one that may apply to her but, let's be clear, there was a very calm vigil to which she attended where lots and lots of people came."
At the time, it was reported that Kate was not on an official visit, and had attended the vigil privately.
"The duchess wanted to pay her respects to Sarah and her family," said a palace source. "She remembers what it felt like to walk around London at night before she got married."
The lockdown rules in England at the time indicated that travel should be minimised where possible.
Dame Cressida added: "It was clearly possible under the law for somebody who lived locally to walk as many did and lay flowers legally, there are other reasons why people might be in the area and they could have laid flowers calmly and peacefully, potentially legally.
"You would have seen for six hours we did not enforce any laws, we showed some discretion and we allowed people to carry on.
"We knew that it would result in a mass gathering, we knew there would be large numbers, we knew who would come, we knew it would be unlawful.
"I had a great deal of contact both with City Hall at the most senior levels and with senior members of the Government.
"... What I was saying consistently was this is likely to be illegal, if it is illegal and people do not disperse when they're asked to do so, we will use as much discretion as we can, we will encourage people, we will try to get them to disperse, but if they don't disperse we will end up arresting people."
The comments were made following a report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary, Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) which stated the Met Police had acted "appropriately" in breaking up the vigil.
The Commissioner also added, however, that the Met would consider whether it "lacked empathy" in its communications following the vigil.