Mayor of London outlines water cannon plans

A police water cannon releases a jet of water on student protesters in Chile, April 2013 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Water cannon are used in several European and South American countries

The London mayor has written to the home secretary outlining plans to equip the Met Police with water cannon.

Boris Johnson wrote to Theresa May to say that he will consult the public on their views on use of the devices in "extreme circumstances".

A final decision by London policing authorities is expected in February, Mrs May would then have to decide whether to licence the machines.

But the Home Office insists it will not fund the purchase of water cannon.

The mayor is hopeful the crowd-control weapons will be available for police in London by the summer.

There are plans to buy three cannon from Germany costing £30,000 each which would be modified for use in the UK.

'Public engagement'

In a letter to Mrs May, Mr Johnson stated he was "broadly convinced" of the value of having the cannon as a resource.

He said: "Should the engagement plan reveal serious, as yet unidentified, concerns I will, of course, take these into consideration and share them with you before you make any decision to licence this non-lethal tool".

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Since the riots in August 2011 the Met Police have argued water cannon should be available

The Mayor's Office for Policing And Crime (MOPAC) said that since the riots in August 2011 the police and the independent Inspectorate of Constabulary had argued that water cannon should be one of the tools available to deal with serious public disorder.

A MOPAC spokeswoman said: "This is supported by the vast majority of the public.

"MOPAC will now be undertaking a period of public engagement to get the views of Londoners, prior to any final decision to purchase water cannon."

Last year around 3,000 British police officers received water cannon training before being deployed to Northern Ireland as part of the security operation for the G8 summit.

'Military Force'

Water cannon has been used in Northern Ireland, but not on the UK mainland.

At the annual Police Federation conference last year the Home Secretary told delegates that she was considering requests from a number of UK forces to use the machines.

The Home Secretary has rejected a request to pay for the Met Police's water cannon as a national asset.

London Assembly member Jenny Jones said water cannons were a step in the "wrong direction".

"People have a democratic right to protest and my fear is that once the mayor allows these weapons onto our streets we will see them being used against people exercising their legal right to protest," she said.

If the Home Secretary allowed use of the machines, an ethics panel chaired by Liberal Democrat peer and barrister Lord Carlile would look at when and how they should be used.

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