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Met Police must apologise for arrest of volunteers handing out rape alarms at coronation, council says

Westminster City Council has called for the Metropolitan Police to apologise to three of its night safety volunteers who were arrested for handing out rape alarms to women ahead of the King’s coronation.

All three have been released without charge and will not face any further action after police detained them and seized “a number of rape alarms” in the early hours of Saturday over fears they could “disrupt the procession”.

A 37-year-old woman, a 59-year-old woman and a 47-year-old man were arrested “on suspicion of conspiracy to commit public nuisance” at around 2am in Soho and taken to a south London police station, the Met said. The 47-year-old man was also further arrested on suspicion of handling stolen goods.

In a statement, Cllr Aicha Less, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Communities and Public Protection said: “We have met with the Metropolitan Police to discuss the arrest of our Night Stars, about which we have been deeply concerned.

“We are pleased to confirm that all three of our volunteers, who provide such a valuable service to the community, have been released without charge and will not face any further action.

“In addition, the Leader of the Council, Cllr Adam Hug, has also written to the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police today, setting out the reasons for our concerns about the handling of this matter. He has also requested an apology is made to the three volunteers.”

The Met claimed it had “received intelligence” suggesting people would seek to disrupt the coronation proceedings “using rape alarms”.

“There was particular concern from military colleagues that this would scare their horses involved in the procession and, as a result, cause significant risk to the safety of the public and the riders,” the force said.

The Met initially said in a statement it feared the rape alarms could be “thrown”, but amended their statement to remove the claim.

Policing Minister Chris Philp also told the House of Commons on Tuesday that the “intelligence picture in the hours leading up to the coronation” included “more than one plot to cause severe disruption” to the event.

Intelligence included a plot by activists to place activated rape alarms in the path of horses to induce a stampede, and a separate plot to douse participants in the procession with paint, he said.

“This was the context: a once in a generation national moment facing specific intelligence on threats about multiple, well-organised plots.”

Night Stars volunteers, who support at-risk women and help vulnerable members of the public to ensure they get home safely, are recognisable due to their vibrant pink high-vis vests.

They often provide people in need with water, directions, slippers or someone to talk to and work in partnership with the Met, whose logo appears on their uniforms.

The council said it is conscious of how the incident could affect its work but will carry on working in collaboration with the force on keeping London safe.

Cllr Less said: “We continue to offer our Night Stars our full support and are also mindful about the potential impact of this matter on our night safety work, much of which is reliant upon members of the public giving up their free time. That’s why we will continue to work with the Metropolitan Police to keep the city safe and to learn from this unfortunate incident.”

The Met’s sweeping arrests of people officers deemed would breach the peace or disturb the coronation of King Charles III has been the subject of widespread criticism.

Police made 64 arrests on Saturday 6 May, 52 of these related to concerns people were going to disrupt the event, figures released by the Met on Monday revealed.

The force expressed “regret” late on Monday as it confirmed six activists from the anti-monarchist lobby group Republic, including its chief executive Graham Smith, will not face charges after being detained under controversial new anti-protest powers rushed into law ahead of the coronation.

The Met said it was “not clear at the time” that the group had been engaging with police relating to the protest ahead of the coronation.

They added: “The Protest Liaison Team were not the arresting officers nor were they present at the time of the arrest.”

Labour MP Diana Johnson, chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee said it would meet on Wednesday morning to consider whether to look further at issues surrounding the policing of the coronation, while “recognising of course that this was a huge policing operation over the weekend to keep people safe and was very successful”.

She added: “There are real questions about that and we think this morning we’ll need to look at that and decide whether we want to have that short inquiry to learn some lessons and see what the implementation of that Act actually means in practise to front line police officers.”

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