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Police set to ask for water cannon

Water cannon is likely to be needed by police due to protests triggered by ongoing austerity measures, a briefing paper has warned.

Chief constables are later this year set to request authorisation to deploy water cannon in mainland Britain for the first time, the paper prepared for the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) and College of Policing says.

The 2011 riots sparked by the shooting of Mark Duggan, the 2004 Countryside Alliance protest in central London, 2010 student protests and demonstrations outside the Israeli embassy in 2008 are all cited as scenarios during which water cannon would be considered for use.

Earlier this month, London Mayor Boris Johnson wrote to Home Secretary Theresa May to say he will ask members of the public and key figures about their views on use of the machines ''in the most extreme circumstances''.

While the Acpo/College of Policing paper, written by West Mercia chief David Shaw, says it is designed "not to justify why the Police Service believes that water cannon should be available", it does go on to explain when Theresa May is likely to be approached for permission.

The paper says: "It is anticipated that the Home Secretary will be approached in early 2014 in respect of water cannon authorisation."

Water cannon have been used by the Police Service of Northern Ireland for some time, but never by forces on the UK mainland.

The Acpo/College of Policing paper says the Ziegler Wasserwerfer 9000 is likely to be the model of choice, which can get through 9,000 litres in just five minutes if it is running at full pressure. It then takes 10 to 20 minutes to refill from a hydrant depending on the pressure of the hydrant.

A new water cannon costs between £600,000 and £1 million depending on its specification and lasts for 25 to 30 years.

Critics warn the machines can cause serious injuries, such as those reportedly experienced by a German protester who was blinded in 2010.

While deployment of water cannon would be an operational decision for chief officers, Home Secretary authorisation is required before water cannon can be used in England and Wales.

If PCCs and chief constables agree that forces in England and Wales need water cannon, they will need to agree how it should be funded from within their existing budgets.

A Home Office spokesman said: " We are keen to ensure forces have the tools and powers they need to maintain order on our streets.

"We are currently providing advice to the police on the authorisation process as they build the case for the use of water cannon."


From Belfast Telegraph