A year after three water cannons were bought by the Metropolitan Police, the Home Secretary, Theresa May, has banned their use in England and Wales.
In 2014, the Lord Mayor of London, Boris Johnson gave consent to the purchase of three second-hand water cannons from the German police force, costing £218,000. The Lord Mayor noted that they are used in Northern Ireland and said he “failed to see the physiological difference between those living in Northern Ireland and people living elsewhere.”
The water cannon is a hugely controversial method of preserving law and order. They are sometimes used in large demonstrations for riot control, but are known to have had harmful consequences. In a demonstration that took place in September 2010, in opposition to the Stuttgart 21 project in Germany, a man named Dietrich Wagner suffered almost became blind as a result of suffering significant damage to his eyes. Bad publicity in the media has led to other methods of riot control being used, such as plastic bullets in the United Kingdom.
The shadow Home Secretary and Labour leadership candidate, Yvette Cooper, has welcomed Mrs May’s decision, going as far as to say it was “exactly right”.
However; Mr Johnson and the Metropolitan Police have expressed their deep disappointment. Speaking to the BBC, the Lord Mayor noted that in a poll, 68% of Londoners wanted the police to have the ability to use the water cannon as a last resort.
The Home Secretary’s refusal to allow water cannons to be used in England and Wales comes almost four years after riots erupted in England’s capital and spread to other towns and cities across the country. Around £200,000,000 worth of property was damaged during the riots and more than 3,000 people arrested.