Metropolitian Police officers were NOT 'heavy handed' in the way they handled a vigil for York woman Sarah Everard at Clapham Common, an investigation by a police watchdog has concluded.

But inspectors from from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary said the event was nevertheless a PR disaster that damaged public confidence.

The inspectors were called in by Home Secretary Priti Patel and London Mayor Sadiq Khan to examine the force's actions after women who attended the event on March 13 were bundled to the ground and arrested.

The ugly scenes attracted an outpouring of criticism on social media, with Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey and Women's Equality Party co-founder Catherine Mayer leading calls for Met chief Dame Cressida Dick to resign.

But the inspectors found that officers at the event did their best to peacefully disperse the crowd, remained calm and professional when subjected to abuse, and did not act inappropriately or in a heavy-handed manner.

They said it was unrealistic to hold a Covid-safe event on the common in light of the numbers of people who would attend and the short time available to plan the vigil.

Sir Thomas Winsor, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary, said: "Our civilian police officers are our fellow citizens. They rely upon and are entitled to receive public support when they act lawfully, sensitively and proportionately; in this case, in the face of severe provocation and in very difficult circumstances, they did just that."

While broadly supporting the police handling of the event, however, the inspectors said there was insufficient communication between police commanders about changing events on the ground.

The watchdog also found that the force should have adopted "a more conciliatory response" amid criticism after the event.

It said: "The media coverage of this incident led to what many will conclude was a public relations disaster for the Metropolitan Police."

Organisers Reclaim These Streets cancelled their vigil planned on Clapham Common on March 13 after accusing Metropolitan Police bosses of refusing to engage constructively with them.

But crowds attended anyway, leading to clashes between police and protesters who had gathered near the bandstand.

A much smaller 'vigil for Sarah' held beside the Minster in her home town of York on the same evening passed off peacefully.