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Last Updated: Monday, 27 November 2006, 15:00 GMT
Water cannon for riots 'viable'
An armoured vehicle mounted with a water cannon in Turkey
Police use water cannons in other countries including Turkey
Water cannon should be considered as a tactic to control violent protests, according to a police watchdog report.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) report looked into the policing of a pro-hunting protest which turned violent in September 2004.

It said the jets would be a "viable option to distance the crowd" to avoid direct confrontation with riot police.

Water cannon have never been used by the Metropolitan Police, which said it still needed to be persuaded.

Missiles and barriers

Around 1,300 officers faced at least 20,000 demonstrators in Parliament Square in the riot, and there were violent exchanges when some protesters tried to break through a police cordon.

Missiles were thrown at police and barriers pulled down, while officers retaliated with batons.

Several demonstrators suffered serious head wounds, and one ended up with 12 stitches to the head.

The IPCC said it had investigated dozens of complaints of alleged police heavy-handedness.

The Metropolitan Police claimed more than 60 of its officers were injured during the violence.

Everyone agrees that something went very badly wrong with the policing of that demonstration
Countryside Alliance

Criminal charges were brought against seven officers following an IPCC probe but all were either found not guilty or had their cases dropped.

The IPCC report, published following the conclusion of all the criminal cases, said there were "lessons to be learned" by all those involved.

It said other tactical options, other than sheer physical force, should be considered urgently.

'Strategic failures'

The report said police should consider crowd "dynamics" when planning for a protest, to ensure escape routes were provided.

It recommended that batons which had caused injury during crowd control should be identified and stored as evidence.

The Countryside Alliance was critical of the report saying it failed to address "the strategic failures of that day".

"Everyone agrees that something went very badly wrong with the policing of that demonstration," said a spokesman.

No decision has been made regarding the introduction of water cannon, said a Metropolitan Police spokesman.

"The commissioner personally believes that that he would 'need to be very strongly persuaded' before going down this route as it would mark a significant departure from the way we have traditionally policed public disorder situations," she said.

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