In Brief

Boris Johnson wants water cannon for London streets

The mayor of London proposes to fund the controversial purchase in case of future riots

water-cannon.jpg

MAYOR of London Boris Johnson wants water cannon ready for use on the streets of London by this summer, according to official letters. 

Public consultations on the deployment of water cannon will begin within weeks and a formal decision is due to be made next month.

Water cannon are used in Northern Ireland but have not previously been available to police on mainland Britain. But after the riots of August 2011 – the most serious and widespread riots to hit England in decades – Met Police commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe has been calling for officers to have access to the high-pressure hoses to quell possible future outbreaks of disorder.

Following a meeting with Hogan-Howe, the mayor of London wrote to Home Secretary Theresa May earlier this week. He told May he had been convinced of the value of having water cannon available to the police for circumstances "where its absence would lead to greater disorder or the use of more extreme force". Hogan-Howe has pledged that water cannon would be "rarely used and rarely seen", the letter says.

The Home Secretary has the final say on whether or not to buy water cannon for use in mainland Britain and a previous request for the government to directly fund the controversial purchase was rejected. But Johnson has offered to make the necessary funds available as early as February following a public consultation.

Critics warn it is a step towards the militarisation of the police and could be used to stifle the democratic right to protest, says The Guardian.

Jenny Jones, a Green party London Assembly member, told the newspaper: "Allowing water cannon on the streets of London is a step in the wrong direction towards arming our police like a military force, and it goes against our great tradition of an unarmed police service."

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