Water cannon set to be deployed across Britain amid fears of more riots
Senior officers say likelihood of future protests against the Government mean they could need permission to deploy water cannon in mainland Britain for the first time
Concerns about future violent protests over the Government’s austerity measures have prompted chief constables to ask Theresa May, the Home Secretary, for authorisation to deploy water cannon in mainland Britain for the first time.
Chief constables have concluded the machines would be a valuable addition to their armoury after carrying out detailed research, including a scientific analysis of injuries that members of the public can suffer when hit by the powerful water jets.
Documents disclosed by the Association of Chief Police Officers show plans have been drawn up for the cannon to be used against protesters and rioters in the future.
Police warn they expect water cannon will be required because “the ongoing and potential future austerity measures are likely to lead to continued protest”.
They claimed the machines would have given them an “operational advantage” in the 2011 riots.
Had they been available, the documents said, cannon would also have been considered for use in the 2004 Countryside Alliance hunting ban protest in central London, the 2010 student protests and demonstrations outside the Israeli embassy in 2008.
The Home Office issued a statement which indicated support for the police stance.
The six-page report by David Shaw, the chief constable of West Mercia police, said: “It is anticipated that the Home Secretary will be approached in early 2014 in respect of water cannon authorisation.”
Currently water cannon are used in Northern Ireland, where the police have six of the vehicles, purchased in 2002, but they are currently not permitted to be used in England, Scotland or Wales.
A separate, five-page technical report also written by Mr Shaw said: “The mere presence of water cannon can have a deterrent effect.
“It is anticipated that water cannon would be deployed in relation to planned events and serious disorder.
“Examples of where water cannon could be deployed include the following … defending a fixed and vulnerable/iconic location; separation of hostile crowds during demonstrations/disorder; creating distance between police and opposing factions; facilitating the advance of police resources and other emergency services to deal with life at risk incidents during incidents of severe disorder.”