Water cannon: Why the Met’s case doesn’t wash

Date published: 
25 February 2014

This Police and Crime Committee's report concludes that the Mayor and the Metropolitan Police have failed to make the case for purchasing second hand water cannon for potential deployment in London by summer 2014.

Water cannon: Why the Met's case doesn't wash highlights the fact that, once purchased by the Met, the water cannon would be available for use by police forces across the country despite there being no nationwide consultation on this significant change to the approach to British public order policing.

It rejects the argument for an ‘interim solution’ of purchasing three 23-year-old water cannon from Germany ahead of a Home Office decision on the national case for making the weapons available for deployment for the first time on mainland Britain.

The report’s conclusions are:

The Met has not set out a convincing case for why water cannon are needed as an interim arrangement for deployment in London by summer 2014.

The examples of disorder that the Met has chosen to demonstrate the potential for water cannon appear contradictory. The Met has not been able to explain how water cannon would have been deployed in these incidents.

Much of the debate has considered the disorder in England in 2011 but analysis has shown that water cannon would have been of very limited – if any – use in preventing or tackling those events.

The decision to purchase water cannon is a significant departure for British policing but the consultation has been limited. The purchase of water cannon is not just a matter for London and the rest of the country needs an opportunity to debate this issue before a final decision is made.

The small number of incidents the Met identified where water cannon could potentially have been used over the past ten years illustrates the complexities of deciding whether to deploy. There is a difference of opinion between the Mayor and the Met as to how the Mayor would be consulted on the use of water cannon.

The Met and Mayor have argued that water cannon would be rarely seen and rarely used. If licenced the Committee would want assurances about the safeguards that will be put in place.

On 3 March 2014 the Committee wrote to the Home Secretary Rt Hon Theresa May MP detailing its concerns about the deployment of water cannon in London and the need for a national debate about the use of water cannon on mainland Britain. Water cannon letter to Home Secretary

On 15 July 2015 the Home Secretary Rt Hon Theresa May MP addressed the House of Commons, announcing that water cannon would not to be deployed in London, echoing the findings of the Assembly's report. Read the Home Secretary's decision and supporting evidence

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