Police may blast rioters off streets with water cannon
DAVID Cameron has given the green light for police to use water cannon on mainland Britain for the first time as part of a "fightback" against rioters.
The Prime Minister insisted police will get whatever resources they need to bring the rioting across England under control, and that every contingency was being looked at.
After a meeting of the emergency committee Cobra, he said: "Police are already authorised to use baton rounds, and we agreed at Cobra that, while they are not currently needed, we now have in place contingency plans for water cannon to be available at 24 hours' notice."
If water cannon are used they will have to be deployed from Northern Ireland. It would be the first time they have been used on mainland Britain.
Meanwhile, Home Secretary Theresa May ordered every police force in England to cancel all leave to deal with the rioting crisis.
The Prime Minister insisted the government would restore order. "We needed a fightback, and a fightback is under way," he said.
"Whatever resources the police need, they will get. Whatever tactics the police feel they need to employ, they will have legal backing to do so.
"We will do whatever is necessary to restore law and order on our streets. Every contingency is being looked at. Nothing is off the table."
In Scotland, police are still allowed to take their annual leave and no similar contingency plans for use of water cannon is in place.
A spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland said: "There's no intention at the moment because of the deployment of Scottish officers down south to interfere with the shift rotas or anything else." The Prime Minister also revealed in his hardline response to the looters that:
• The police would have permission to use rubber bullets.
• Courts will carry on sitting overnight to deal with riots cases. More than 160 people have already been charged.
• Photographs of rioters will continue to be published so they can be identified and brought to justice.
• The culprits should expect prison sentences.
"It is for the courts to sentence, but I would expect anyone convicted of violent disorder to be sent to prison," Mr Cameron said.
Sir Hugh Orde, the president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, said he did not think that water cannon would prove necessary because they are used to dealing with fixed crowds, not fast-moving groups.
"If the situation develops where we would need to use water cannon, I would have no hesitation in seeking support from the chief constable of Northern Ireland to deploy them. I don't see it as necessary, and nor do the 43 chiefs I spoke to this morning."
Jimmy Spratt, a former head of Northern Ireland's police federation, added that water cannon would be of no use in tackling the disturbances.
The Democratic Unionist said police in Belfast used water cannon to tackle mobs gathered in open locations and in large numbers.
But he argued that trying to use water cannon around commercial centres in London, Manchester or other cities was not feasible.
He said: "It is not workable at all. There are several points, including the size of these vehicles.
"The big issue would be manoeuvrability.
"They are suited to operating in a wide space, where police are faced with a crowd of rioters."The Police Service of Northern Ireland said there were no plans to deploy its water cannon in Britain.
Mr Cameron claimed the riots showed there was something seriously wrong with society. "There are pockets of our society that are not just broken, but frankly sick," he said.
"When we see children as young as 12 and 13 looting and laughing, when we see the disgusting sight of a young man with people pretending to help him while they are robbing him, it is clear that there are things badly wrong with our society."
He added that he believed the problem was a "complete lack of responsibility".
"People allowed to feel that the world owes them something, that their rights outweigh their responsibilities, and their actions do not have consequences. Well, they do have consequences."
But he said the rioting had shown the strengths of British society. "We have seen the worst of Britain but I also believe we have seen some of the best of Britain - the million people who have signed up on Facebook to support the police, coming together in the clean-up operations," he said.
A spokesman for the Scottish Government said there were no contingency plans in place to deploy water cannon in Scotland.
"Although we are not complacent we don't have the public disorder that they are seeing south of the border so we are not in that situation," he said.
He added: "The use of water cannon would be an operational matter for the police."
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