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Boris Johnson backs police demand for water cannons

TAKE COVER: Police in Belfast use water cannons (PA)

LONDON MAYOR Boris Johnson is supporting a police request to have the capital’s force equipped with high-power water cannons that could be used against protesters.

The Metropolitan Police want to purchase three cannons from Germany for a cost of £90,000.

Despite Johnson saying the device would not have prevented the London riots in 2011 following the police shooting of the unarmed Mark Duggan, he backed police plans to acquire the cannons, which have been linked to people suffering broken bones and blindness.

The Met’s assistant commissioner Mark Rowley said the force had identified a previous six cases over the last 12 years when the cannons could have been deployed, including student protests.

Rowley said: “When [protesters’] obvious objective is attacking a fixed location, such as Parliament, such as an embassy, such as the Millbank buildings, then you've got a small group of highly violent people... posing a lot of risk to the public.

"In those situations it's potentially a credible tactic.”

He added: "We're not going to use it against a small number of violent people in the midst of thousands of peaceful people. We are not presenting it as a silver bullet for all serious disorder.”

The London Assembly is currently scrutinising the proposals to give officers the devices, which can only be bought if Home Secretary Theresa May sanctions the move.

Johnson claimed the water cannon would be “a very rare beast” on London’s streets.

The mayor added: “It's highly likely that we will very rarely see these things on the streets of London, if ever.

"The question is how can we live with ourselves if we fail to give the police the capability in certain circumstances to avoid risk of injury?

"This is going to be a very rare beast indeed.”

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