Water cannon

Following six weeks of public engagement, the Mayor of London has now announced that he has agreed to support the Metropolitan Police’s call to purchase water cannon to help enhance their response to riots or other serious and exceptional public disorder. The final decision on whether to license the water cannon for use on the UK mainland now rests with the Home Secretary.

In coming to this recommendation, the Mayor has taken into account evidence of broad support amongst Londoners for this measure. An independent poll conducted by TNS on behalf of the Mayor's Office for Policing And Crime (MOPAC), found over two thirds of respondents (68 per cent) were supportive of the use of water cannon in limited circumstances. In addition, over half of the respondents (52 per cent) expressed that they would have greater confidence in the Met Police's ability to respond to serious public disorder if water cannon were available: more than a third of Londoners think the police already have water cannon.

The poll is the largest and most detailed undertaken on this issue gathering the opinions of a representative group of 4,223 Londoners aged 16 and over. Every ethnic group was favourable to the use of water cannon as was every age group across all areas of the capital. The survey found that the more people knew about water cannon, the more supportive they were. Further to the poll, MOPAC held a series of public meetings with stakeholders and the public, and over 2,500 individual email responses were received.

The Mayor's decision comes after the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, requested the Mayor's permission to purchase three existing water cannon from the German Federal Police. The Commissioner has committed that these water cannon would be 'rarely seen and rarely used'. Concerns were raised during the consultation and the Mayor sought assurances from the police about how and when water cannon would be used and has outlined these assurances in his response the London Assembly.

The Mayor has been clear that no one wants to see water cannon routinely deployed on the streets of London but having carefully weighed up all the evidence he has concluded there is broad support amongst Londoners for the use of this measure by the police in limited circumstances.

A copy of the Mayor’s letter to the Home Secretary is below and a document setting out the responses received during the engagement period, the assurances received from the police in response to concerns raised and more details of the poll results.

The following documents published as part of the engagement can also be found below:

  • The letter sent by MPS Assistant Commissioner to the Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, Stephen Greenhalgh, in September 2013 updating him on the plans.
  • The Mayor’s letter sent to the Home Secretary in January 2014 following further meetings between the Mayor and the Commissioner, setting out his support in principle for the police to have water cannon available, but subject to engagement with Londoners. The Home Secretary's reply to this letter is also below.
  • The letter sent by the Deputy Mayor to Joanne McCartney AM, the Chair of the London Assembly Police and Crime Committee.
  • A letter from Chief Constable David Shaw on behalf of ACPO and sent to all Police & Crime Commissioners and their respective Chief Constables from January 2014.
  • A briefing from ACPO and the College of Policing on the use of water cannon.
  • A copy of the MPS review into the riots in August 2011 which concluded that water cannons would be “valuable in a few rare situations” can be found here.
  • The College of Policing Professional Practice for the use of water cannon can be found here.