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BBC News – Police ‘need riot tactic rules’, watchdog says

Police should be given clear rules about when they can use water cannon and plastic bullets against rioters, a watchdog has said.

The Inspectorate of Constabulary said there were a “number of real scenarios” during the summer’s rioting in England when such tactics could have been used.

On Monday, the Home Affairs Committee said using the devices would have been “indiscriminate and dangerous”.

The inspectorate said a new framework for public disorder was needed.

Its review of the August riots noted that police could lawfully have used firearms to shoot rioters who set fire to buildings. Firearms can “potentially” be deployed where arson poses a threat to life, or of serious injury, the report states.

It said water cannon and plastic bullets could be considered to deal with rioters throwing missiles and petrol bombs, to stop “violent attacks on the public” and arson attacks, and also where fire and ambulance crews were under threat.

The report said water cannon were an “effective means of dispersal and incur fewer injuries to the public” in static and slow-moving scenarios.

But it conceded there were none on mainland UK, they cost more than £1m each and need to be deployed in pairs to be effective.

The Inspectorate also revealed that discussions had taken place about support the military could provide in any future disorder, suggesting the Army could help in “logistical roles”.

The Inspectorate added that its own public opinion survey suggested people support the idea of using water cannon and plastic bullets in public order situations.

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