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Met police could have released royal superfan locked up for 13 hours after Coronation arrest ‘straight away’

The lawyer that represented a royal superfan mistakenly arrested at the King’s coronation because she happened to be standing next to protesters has hit out at the Met Police for not taking responsibility for the mistake.

Alex Sirghi was the duty solicitor working on Saturday evening when Alice Chambers, 36, was arrested and taken to at Wandsworth police station in London, where she was held for 13 hours after being mistaken for a Just Stop Oil protester.

The architect, who is originally from Australia but has lived in London for seven years, was taken into custody, fingerprinted, swabbed for DNA and had mugshot photos taken before police realised the mistake, despite her repeatedly protesting her innocence.

Mr Sirghi told i that the Met could have released her “straight away” upon finding out she was not remotely involved in any protests and that the force must investigate.

The Met – which led the policing operation – has said it won’t be looking into Ms Chambers’s arrest because it was made by an officer from Lincolnshire Police who had been drafted in to help cover the immense security operation during the coronation.

Ms Chambers made a complaint to Scotland Yard, but it has passed the complaint to Lincolnshire, whose Professional Standards Branch will investigate what happened.

But criminal advocate Mr Sirghi said the actions of a Met police officer also played a crucial role in Ms Chambers’ ordeal.

Police had already searched the royalist before she arrived at Wandsworth police station and found nothing in her possession other than a stool and a camera she had brought to try and take a picture of the King.

As a result, the custody sergeant at Wandsworth, a Met officer, could have cleared up the mistake quickly when Ms Chambers first arrived at around 1pm, Mr Sirghi said.

Alice Chambers was arrested on The Mall at the King?s Coronation on 6 May and held for 13 hours
Alice Chambers was arrested on The Mall at the King’s Coronation on 6 May and held for 13 hours (Source: Sky News)

“It is [the custody sergeant’s] responsibility, if an officer makes an arrest, to decide if an offence has been committed. If there is not sufficient evidence, or if the arrest is unlawful, they have a duty to release her straight away,” the solicitor said.

“It’s the first thing the custody sergeant does, based on the information provided, is decide whether detention is necessary, whether to process them and interview them, then to look after the people in custody.

“Every officer will deal with [an arrest] their own way, the custody sergeant is the safety net.

“If an officer has made a mistake arresting someone for nothing, the custody sergeant could have said ‘I don’t believe an offence has been committed, I do not authorise detention’ – that would be the end of the story.

“That’s their job. Sometimes they make mistakes because they don’t want to take responsibility.”

Ms Chambers told i how she was waiting to catch a glimpse of the new King when she was handcuffed and arrested on suspicion of “potential to breach the peace” because she was inadvertently standing next to a group of Just Stop Oil protesters.

The story has provoked a furious reaction from politicians and members of the public and intensified the row over the Met’s alleged heavy-handed tactics during the coronation which also led to the leader of an anti-monarchy group Republic being arrested.

The Met made 64 arrests during the coronation and Commissioner Mark Rowley later said officers were acting on intelligence that protesters planned to throw paint and vandalise monuments.

While he could not go into the detail due to client confidentiality, Mr Sirghi confirmed he assisted with the arrest of a female who was not a protester and was later released without charge.

“The result was the right result,” he told i. “She was very unfortunate, the arrest was not justified.”

Ms Chambers pictured outside Buckingham Palace in 2017 (Source: supplied)

Ms Chambers spent a further nine hours in a police cell after being seen by the custody officer and was further arrested on a charge believed to be “conspiracy to commit a public nuisance”.

She was held until 7pm before she was finally able to explain the misunderstanding to two senior officers in a formal interview. They quickly apologised and told her she would be released and face no further action but still wasn’t released for a further two-and-a-half hours – at 10pm.

“I understand why the police were on the edge, they did have a tough job that day,” Ms Chambers said. “But they need to have better processes and better training in place because innocent people shouldn’t be getting locked up for that long.

“I just want to do as much as I can to get the message out there so it doesn’t happen to other people.”

A spokesperson for the Met Police said: “We are aware that a woman was arrested in relation to a protest on 6 May 2023.

“The arresting officer was from Lincolnshire Police and the complaint has therefore been passed to the relevant force to investigate. The Met will assist by providing any relevant information they require.”

Chief Inspector Simon Outen from the Professional Standards Department at Lincolnshire Police, said: “Our officers were in central London providing mutual aid support to colleagues in the Met on Saturday 6 May, and during that time, a woman in her thirties was arrested in connection with a Just Stop Oil protest.

“She was subsequently released with no further action.

“We have now received a complaint and we are reviewing the incident, and we are in contact with the complainant to establish the full details of her allegations.”

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