A POLICE chief said her officers acted fairly at a vigil for Sarah Everard where a gathering led to "a wicked problem" for policing.

Chief Constable Jo Shiner at Sussex Police told Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Katy Bourne she "absolutely cannot criticise" any of her frontline officers for their actions at the vigil held in Valley Gardens in Brighton, but accepted "lessons could be learned".

About 150 people had attended the vigil on Saturday to leave flowers and light candles in memory of 33-year-old Sarah Everard.

READ MORE: Sarah Everard vigil: Sussex Police told they 'got it wrong'

One man was arrested during the evening and eight people were issued with fines, while footage also emerged which showed a woman being held on the floor and handcuffed by police officers.

The Argus: The vigil in Valley Gardens on SaturdayThe vigil in Valley Gardens on Saturday

Speaking during a weekly performance and accountability meeting with Ms Bourne, which was broadcast live today, chief constable Shiner said: "The events of the weekend presented a wicked problem for policing.

"We are still in a pandemic and during this crisis we have had a role to play in enforcing the government's health regulations, designed to limit the spread of infection and ultimately to save lives.

"The police took no action as people came to mark their respects and even as they gathered peacefully in much larger numbers.

"But at the point when the large group was moving closer together, a decision was made to encourage those gathered to comply with the regulations and disperse. The vast majority did.

"Where you have seen enforcement action, this was taken as a last resort where people refused to engage.

"Even then, these matters were dealt with fairly, proportionately and with reasonable discussion, away from the scene."

The Argus: Chief Constable Jo ShinerChief Constable Jo Shiner

Chief Constable Shiner added that public order policing is "really challenging" but emphasised she is listening to feedback.

She said: "I can completely understand what the perception is and I think it's really important we listen.

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"Could we and should we have policed that event differently and more sensitively?

"I think on reflection, having listened to feedback, I think there is a balance that we could have done that, and I think it would be wrong not to listen to those perceptions.

"But we must balance that with the vast majority of the public feedback that supported the way we policed it."

Ms Shiner said an internal review had been carried out by police and she welcomed any independent scrutiny of the weekend's events.

She took the opportunity to thank her officers for their "humility, tolerance and patience" during the past year, amid the pandemic.

The Argus: Video footage showed officers holding a woman to the floor and handcuffing herVideo footage showed officers holding a woman to the floor and handcuffing her

She said: "Those frontline officers have been policing Covid for almost a year and it's been a really difficult time for them.

"Day in, day out, they've put themselves in danger.

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"They're not robots, they're absolutely human beings doing a really tough job.

"The actions that were taken, I do believe were proportionate, on the whole.

"In the last week we've had six vigils and that one which moved into a protest. Out of all of those we made two arrests and issued nine FPNs. I think that shows balance.

"While we are policing those events we are taking officers away from being able to investigate those crimes and incidents reported to us - a lot of those towards women and girls, and that's the last thing I want to do."

It comes after MPs criticised the force following the vigil, including Kemptown MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle, who described officers' conduct as "heavy-handed", while Caroline Lucas MP said she was "very disappointed" that officers "did not make judgments to fit with the situation".