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Water cannon may be used to douse UK riot hot-spots

By Deborah McAleese and Liam Clarke

David Cameron has agreed that water cannon - used by the PSNI for years at scenes of public disorder - can be deployed by police attempting to control riots in English cities.

The Prime Minister said water cannon will be available within 24 hours if needed. It would be the first time the crowd control device would be used in England, even though it has regularly been used during riots in Northern Ireland.

Former PSNI Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde, who is now president of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), said that he would have "no hesitation" in seeking support from current Chief Constable Matt Baggott to deploy the force's water cannon at the scene of disturbances in England - although he does not believe it is yet necessary to do so.

Both Mr Cameron's and Sir Hugh's position on the water cannon is at odds with that of Home Secretary Theresa May, who on Tuesday dismissed their deployment because the tactic "was not British".

Sir Hugh said yesterday that while he currently does not believe the use of water cannon is necessary, he would seek support from Mr Baggott to deploy them "if the situation developed where we would need to use water cannon".

"Water cannon are used to deal with fixed crowds to buy distance. The evidence ... shows that these are fast-moving crowds where water cannon would not be appropriate," he said.

The PSNI said yesterday evening that it had not yet received a request for any of the force's water cannon to be transferred to England.

Mr Cameron also said that police have permission to use rubber bullets, deployed by the PSNI in particularly dangerous disorder situations, to bring rioting and looting under control.

As part of the "more robust" approach now being taken by police to control the disorder, forces in England are publishing photographs of suspected rioters.

Mr Cameron said he would "not let any phony concerns about human rights get in the way of the publication of these pictures and arrest of these individuals".

When the PSNI used this tactic last year it was heavily criticised by human rights groups and a judicial review of the force's decision to publish the images was launched.

DUP MPs will today ask Mr Cameron to adopt the same tough approach to rioting in Northern Ireland as he promised in Britian.

Yesterday the Prime Minster vowed to give the police whatever resources they needed.

Gregory Campbell, the DUP MP for East Londonderry, said: "I hope he will apply the same standards."

The MP said he and his colleagues would oppose attempts to blame rioting and looting on the cuts.

"These issues cannot be linked as cause and effect. They are separate problems," he said.

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