London

Unused Met Police water cannon location revealed

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Media captionSpotted: The Met's water cannon

BBC London has tracked down the controversial water cannon the mayor apparently did not want the public to see.

It followed a tip-off to a precise location by the Thames estuary near Gravesend, behind some hoardings in a Met Police training facility.

We managed to film two of the canon from above using a drone camera.

The three second-hand cannon were paid for by the public but have never been put on public view.

How secret?

They arrived from Germany more than 18 months ago but there was no public unveiling by the mayor's office and the Met, and no media access.

Opposition members of the London Assembly say they have been denied access to them too. The fate and whereabouts of the third cannon is not known.

A spokesman from the mayor's office said: "We have always been clear in public that we do not plan to comment on the location of the water cannon."

The spokesman went on to say a photo of Stephen Greenhalgh, the deputy mayor for policing and crime, was tweeted by him in July standing next to one of the cannon.

The Met also refused to comment on the location of the water cannon.

Image copyright Stephen Greenhalgh

'Absolutely useless'

Boris Johnson authorised their purchase for the Met two years ago to be used in the event of a serious public order outbreak, but in 2015 the home secretary banned their use because of the risk of injuring anyone they were used against.

The cannon have been refurbished and repainted in Met Police colours and the total bill - including purchase price, refits, maintenance and officer training - comes to £330,000.

Green Party London Assembly member Jenny Jones said London would be better off getting shot of the cannon as soon as possible.

"It's fascinating to finally find these machines because the Met and the mayor wanted them to be a complete secret," she told me.

Previously, whenever she asked about their location, she was informed the mayor's office was not prepared to tell her.

"To me these machines have been a complete waste of money and the whole secrecy has also been pointless.

"It's time the mayor accepted that they are absolutely useless for Britain," she continued.

'Used for training'

At the time of the home secretary's decision, Mr Johnson said the Met would continue to use the cannon to train on.

A Met spokesman said officers occasionally travelled to Northern Ireland to support colleagues where they may be required to deploy alongside water cannon, where they were permitted for use.

He said in the event of future public disorder in England the police was free to apply again to the home secretary to seek permission for a licence to use the cannon.

A spokesman for the mayor said: "We have always been clear that the water cannons are being used for training and therefore are being maintained.

"Following the riots of 2011, the commissioner made it clear that water cannon is a tactic he would want at his disposal in the event of a future emergency. This was a view supported by the prime minister, the mayor, the deputy mayor, and 68% of Londoners in independent polling."

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