UK & World News
Boris Wants Water Cannon For London's Streets
Boris Johnson has requested the Metropolitan Police to be able to use water cannon on the capital's streets by this summer.
The London Mayor said the weapons would be used only in "the most extreme circumstances", but there are fears the cannon could be deployed to break up small-scale legitimate protests.
He said the water cannon were necessary in case there was a repeat of the summer riots of 2011.
The violent outbreaks and looting in cities across the country led David Cameron to warn that the machines could be used on the British mainland for the first time ever.
Mr Johnson wrote a letter to the Home Secretary, Theresa May, who would make the final decision on whether to licence the water cannon.
Plans have been laid out to buy three water cannon, at a cost of £30,000 each, from a German manufacturer, but Mrs May has turned down a request that the Government pay for such a weapon for the Metropolitan Police as a national asset.
Scotland Yard mulled using water cannon during the student riots in London in 2010, however, Mrs May then said in the House of Commons: "I don't think anyone wants to see water cannon being used on the streets of Britain."
In the summer 4,000 Metropolitan Police officers were trained in Hampshire in how to use the water cannon so they could support their Northern Ireland counterparts ahead of the G8.
Northern Ireland has used the weapons for crowd control for some time but they have never been used on the British mainland.
In his letter the mayor told Mrs May he was consulting the public and key figures on the use of the water cannon and was "broadly convinced" by the idea.
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."
There have been some instances reported of water cannon causing serious injuries to people including to a German protester who was blinded in 2010.
Mrs May told delegates at the Police Federation last year that she was considering requests from a number of UK forces to use the machines.
London Assembly member Jenny Jones said: "Would the Mayor have supported the deployment of water cannon against students protesting against their fees going up?
"What happens if the Commissioner wants to deploy water cannon but the Mayor doesn't? Londoners need to know when and in what circumstances the Mayor would agree with the Met using this weapon.
"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.
"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."
A spokeswoman for the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) said: "Since the riots in August 2011 the police and the independent Inspectorate of Constabulary have argued that water cannon should be available as one of a range of tools to respond to serious public disorder.
"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."
A final decision is expected to be made in February.
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