London mayor backs police use of water cannon

Published on Thursday, 20 March 2014 10:05
Written by Govtoday staff

Following a six week public consultation the mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has announced that he has agreed to support the Metropolitan Police's call to purchase water cannon to help enhance their response to riots or other serious and exceptional public disorder.

The final decision on whether to license the water cannon for use on the UK mainland now rests with the home secretary. In coming to this recommendation, the mayor has taken into account evidence of broad support amongst Londoners for this measure. An independent poll conducted by TNS on behalf of the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC), found over two thirds of respondents (68%) were supportive of the use of water cannon in limited circumstances.

In addition, over half of the respondents (52%) expressed that they would have greater confidence in the Met Police's ability to respond to serious public disorder if water cannon were available: more than a third think the police already have water cannon. The poll is the largest and most detailed undertaken on this issue gathering the opinions of a representative group of 4,223 Londoners aged 16 and over.

Every ethnic group was favourable to the use of water cannon as was every age group across all areas of the capital. The survey found that the more people knew about water cannon, the more supportive they were. Further to the poll, MOPAC held a series of public meetings with stakeholders and the public and over 2,500 individual email responses were received.

The mayor's decision comes after the commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, requested the mayor's permission to purchase three existing water cannon from the German Federal Police. The Commissioner has committed that these water cannon would be 'rarely seen and rarely used'. Concerns were raised during the consultation and the mayor sought assurances from the police about how and when water cannon would be used and has outlined these assurances in his response the London Assembly.

The mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: "No one wants to see water cannon routinely deployed on the streets of London but having carefully weighed up all the evidence, I have concluded there is broad support amongst Londoners for the use of this measure by the police in limited circumstances. This is a tactic that the commissioner has requested be available to his force when confronted with situations of extreme public disorder and he has assured me that they will be rarely seen and rarely used.

"However it is critical that Londoners are assured that there are robust safeguards in place before seeing water cannon in action. To this end I will be asking Lord Carlile's independent policing ethics panel to explore the ethical considerations around how water cannon, if licensed by the home secretary, should be used. This will reassure Londoners and help the police in ensuring transparent safeguards are in place to govern any deployment."

The deputy mayor for policing and crime, Stephen Greenhalgh, said: 'We need the Met police to continue to police protest in a proportionate manner and not to escalate the use of force. But we also have a duty to ensure the police have the tools to do the job we ask of them. Over the course of MOPAC's consultation, Londoners have had the chance to air their views on this important issue and it is clear that on balance, there is broad public support for this measure from Londoners of all backgrounds. The commissioner's request has met with the mayor's support and we now await the home secretary's decision.'

Source: Greater London Authority

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