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‘We need to feel safer in the park’

Calls to lock gates after dark, amid debate sparked by Sarah Everard death

26 March, 2021 — By Helen Chapman

Finsbury Park, managed by Haringey Council, could get extra safety measures including CCTV cameras. Photo: Stephen McKay

CAMPAIGNERS are calling for more safety measures to be introduced in Finsbury Park, amid a national debate that was sparked by the shock killing of Sarah Everard.

Vigils were held last week and flowers were laid outside the Town Hall in memory of the 33-year-old, whose remains were found in Kent earlier this month.

The routes through Finsbury Park have been a cause of concern since the murder of Iuliana Tudos, who was killed on her way home from working at a pub in 2017. A man was later found guilty of her murder.

Islington’s community safety chief, Councillor Sue Lukes, has called for the park to be closed after dark to help improve safety.

“No one feels safe unless everyone feels safe,” she said. “We need women to feel safe doing what they want to do. We are absolutely not a borough where we want women to feel like they will only be safe if they behave in a certain way or do certain things.”

Iuliana Tudos

She added: “There’s a perception we are hearing from local people and businesses that people feel they can disappear into the park when they have done something wrong. There’s lots of places you can hide. If it were closed at night, that might discourage quite a bit of that.

“It’s a lovely place and we need green space, so we want to see it as managed as possible.”

The park is at the corner of three boroughs, including Islington, but is managed by neighbouring Haringey Council, which said it is planning to install six CCTV cameras there by the summer.

They are also looking to improve lighting but did not confirm when these works would take place.

Cllr Lukes said: “I am keen to see if part of their regeneration plans would be to close it [Finsbury Park] after dark.”

Sarah Everard

Anita Grant, who set up the Islington for Women group in 2017, said she has been working with the police and the council on safety and is calling for an app through which women can report sexual harassment.

She said: “Each year we have had recommendations that come out of our various events, and safety has always been one of them. People were talking about feeling unsafe in certain areas or would avoid a specific place.

“What we have asked for is an app or some way women can access and identify these places where they feel unsafe or are worried, say if the lighting isn’t good enough.”

Tom Graham, co-chair of the Friends of Finsbury Park, said: “Whilst policing efforts have really improved in the past year, we worry there’s much more that could be done about safety.

“Some female visitors, and indeed men, don’t always feel safe in the park. We think more police presence in the park would make a big difference.

“We also think investment, in lighting and CCTV particularly, would make the park feel safer. The police safety report issued after the murder of Iuliana Tudos in 2018 contained a strong set of recommendations that three years on would merit action.

“I’m a dad, I’ve got two young girls. On the whole Finsbury Park is a great place to raise a family, and it’s definitely improved in recent years. But there’s no doubt in my mind that there are some dubious areas. I would not go into the park after dark.”

Islington Council said it is also working with the police, Finsbury Park Mosque and the Muslim Welfare Centre to address safety issues in the Blackstock Road area.

A Haringey Council spokesperson said: “We want everyone to feel safe in Finsbury Park – it is, of course, our top priority.

“We are installing CCTV cameras and will be looking to improve the overhead lighting to the footpaths in Finsbury Park in response to the feedback we received from the public consultation on proposed improvements there.”

They added: “As well as these present and future improvements, we have also bolstered our staff presence and enhanced visibility to help ensure community safety and prevent anti-social behaviour. We will continue to engage with our partners and external stakeholders, including the Friends of Finsbury Park, on our plans to improve community safety in the park.”

Wayne Couzens has been charged with Ms Everard’s murder and will face a trial in the autumn.

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