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article imagePM Cameron authorises use of water cannons against rioters

By Gemma Fox     Aug 10, 2011 in Crime
London - Following a fourth night of rioting and looting across many English cities the British Prime Minister authorised the use of water cannons against those rioting.
British PM David Cameron said after another sitting of the COBRA emergency committee meeting this morning that he had authorised the use of water cannons against rioters if they were required. Plans were being put into place to allow for the use of water cannons at 24-hours notice.
Water cannons in the UK cannot be used on the mainland without permission from the government. They are used in Northern Ireland as a method of crowd control and have been used recently. The UK has only 6 water cannons and they are all housed in Northern Ireland by the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
Used in the USA during the riots of the 1960's water cannons are still seen often in Europe, particularly Germany and often when riots flare up in Northern Ireland.
While they can be an effective crowd control method they can also prove dangerous. One protester at a demonstration in Germany last September was hit in the face with water from a cannon and the injuries he sustained resulted in almost full loss of vision.
Martin Brunt, Sky News crime correspondent said, "I think there are some chief constables who will say it is not a brilliant idea because they are very blunt weapons and they can only really be used in a big space. Last night we saw cops chasing rioters down very narrow streets, the sort of places you cannot use water cannon..it is an intriguing prospect but it won't be welcome by all police chiefs."
However, Cameron remained defiant about the tactics being considered and being used to free the streets of London, Birmingham, Manchester, Nottingham and others from rioters and give them back to the communities. He said,
It is all too clear that we have a big problem with gangs in our country. For too long there’s been a lack of focus on the complete lack of respect shown by these groups of thugs. I’m clear that they are in no way representative of the vast majority of young people in our country who despise them, frankly, as much as the rest of us do, but there are pockets of our society that are not just broken but, frankly, sick. When we see children as young as 12 and 13 looting and laughing, when we see the disgusting sight of an injured young man with people pretending to help him while they are robbing him, it is clear there are things that are badly wrong in our society.
He also paid tribute to those who condemned the violence and who worked hard at cleaning up the communities affected by four nights of looting and violence. He said,
We needed a fight back and a fight back is underway. We have seen the worst of Britain, but I also believe we’ve seen some of the best of Britain: the million people who’ve signed up on Facebook to support the police, communities coming together in the cleanup operations. But there is absolutely no room for complacency and there is much more to be done.
During his speech this morning Cameron said the "major fightback was working" and at that time there had been over 750 arrests, this has now risen to 805 in the Metropolitan Police area only. By 1540 hours this afternoon the Met announced that they had charged 251 people already. Courts are due to sit through the night, as they did last night, to get through the sheer numbers of people arrested as a result of Operation Withern. Met Police today added more pictures of people the want speak to in connection with the rioting to their Flickr Photostream.
Since Saturday hundreds of arrests have been made across England, outside of London and in Manchester already two individuals have been sentenced for their part in the disturbances in the city, one for 10 weeks and the other for 16 weeks.
More about London Riots, water cannons, Metropolitan police, Birmingham, Manchester
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