The Scoop

Boris Johnson used to oppose the use of water cannon. What's changed?

Adam Bienkov | Monday 13 May, 2013 14:06

London’s Police and Crime Commissioner Boris Johnson refused to comment today following reports that the Met have requested water cannon to use against protesters.

Three years ago he he opposed their use on principle, saying that:

“It is certainly my view -that we are not instinctively in favour of ratcheting up the panoply of implements of crowd control in this city. This is a free city which has a great tradition of free speech. We do not want to see any kind of arms race with protestors. At the moment there are no plans to go, for instance, for water cannon.”

He made similar comments again to Parliament following the London riots.

His former Policing Deputy Kit Malthouse was also against their use, telling the London Assembly last year that “the truth is water cannon does not stop a riot.”

Malthouse also questioned the practicality of using such “great lumbering” machines to deal with fast moving protests in London.

Water cannon has caused serious injury to protestors in the past. In 2010 66-year-old Dietrich Wagner was blinded by water cannon at a protest in Germany.

So what has changed? If Boris thought that water cannon was too much of a threat to free speech before, why doesn’t he think the same now?

I’ve asked City Hall whether Boris now supports the use of water cannon and if so why. So far I’ve had no response.

Update: A spokesperson for the Mayor today declined to say whether Boris still opposes the use of water cannon.

They instead pointed us toward the following statement from the Metropolitan Police:

“In the MPS report ’4 Days in August’ published in March 2012 the MPS stated that water cannons would be a valuable option in rare situations. Since the publication of the report we have remained in discussion with the Home Office on its position on licensing and the funding of cannon as a national asset.”

Filed in: