Boris Johnson says water cannon would have made no difference in …
Boris Johnson said politicians should not refuse the police something they need for their operations. Photograph: David Hartley/Rex Features
Water cannon “would not have made a blind bit of difference during the London1 riots”, Boris Johnson2, the mayor of London, has said, despite supporting a request by the Met commissioner3 for them to be available for use as early as this summer.
During a session at the London assembly, the mayor was asked to explain his support for their use in the capital, after the home secretary denied government funding4 for their purchase in January. He described it as a moral issue, stating that politicians should not refuse the police5 something they needed for their operations. “How would we live with ourselves if we denied the police something that could have saved a life or prevented serious injury? “It would be wrong for politicians to say ‘absolutely not’ when the police already have access to more dangerous deterrents.”
When asked about the London riots, the mayor said water cannon “would not have made a blind bit of difference”. Nor would he have authorised their use during the student protests, he said. “The answer is not to let things get out of control, and not to allow a mentality to arise of sheer wanton criminality.”
A report by the Association of Chief Police Officers highlighted several events in recent years when the use of water cannon might have been warranted. They included the Countryside Alliance march, the Gaza protest and the student protests in 2010. Mark Rowley, assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan police, said water cannon would be of particular use when there was a clear target, citing the burning of shops in Croydon during the riots and scenes in Millbank during the student protests as examples.
“The vast majority of students were involved in a peaceful demonstration. Others were throwing missiles and committing arson, a clear danger to the police and the public,” he said. “It is a safer way to create distance compared to existing tactics such as charging at protesters with armoured vehicles or horses, and less confrontational.”
He stressed there was no specific evidence of trouble brewing as a result of austerity measures, saying: “Disorder is simply more likely in summer than in winter.” Rowley said the ultimate decision about whether to use water cannon would lie with the police, although Johnson has said he would want to be consulted in advance. “I am accountable to the courts and the IPCC, and the final decision must rest with the police,” said Rowley.
He also stressed that there had been no serious injuries from the use of water cannon in Northern Ireland.
The estimated cost for the purchase of three water cannon from Germany has been estimated at 200,000 with the Met police anticipating training a team of 20 across the capital to specialise in their use.
- ^ More from the Guardian on London (www.theguardian.com)
- ^ More from the Guardian on Boris Johnson (www.theguardian.com)
- ^ request by the Met commissioner (www.theguardian.com)
- ^ home secretary denied government funding (www.theguardian.com)
- ^ More from the Guardian on Police (www.theguardian.com)
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