Met Police ‘could have fired rubber bullets in London 22 times in two years’

15:57 18 March 2012

The Met Police could have used rubber bullets to control public disorder incidents in London 22 times in the past two years, it has emerged.

Firearms officers could have opened fire on crowds with the so-called ‘non-lethal’ bullets after police chiefs authorised the deployment of some of the near-3,000 baton rounds in the force’s armoury.

Scotland Yard has refused to say when and where the rubber bullets might have been used, claiming that making such information public could jeopardise future policing operations.

The figures relating to 2010 and 2011 were obtained by London Assembly member and Liberal Democrat peer Dee Doocey in a question to London Mayor Boris Johnson.

In his written answer on behalf of Met commissioner, Bernard Hogan-Howe, Mr Johnson confirmed the force had “authorised the movement” of rubber bullets 22 times in the two years.

Lady Doocey told The Independent national newspaper: “I have long believed rubber bullets have no role in policing demonstrations in London. This secrecy over their potential use merely confirms that view. It is simply wrong for the Met to be silent when on so many occasions the use of rubber bullets was being considered.”

Although they were used in Northern Ireland over many years, the rounds have still never been used on the British mainland.

The figure of how many times the Met Police could have used the bullets – known as attenuating energy projectiles (AEPs) - is higher than previously thought.

Earlier this week Scotland Yard published its final report into last summer’s London riots following a comprehensive review of its actions.

The review said the use of baton rounds had been discussed at length and they were recognised as a “viable tactic, that offers a less lethal option if absolutely necessary to protect life, prevent serious injury or prevent serious damage to property (in circumstances likely to lead to loss of life/serious injury).”

The report went on: “In answer to the review’s findings that a more localised availability of this resource might have enabled commanders to deploy baton rounds as an effective tactic, the MPS is currently considering the establishment of this tactic as a more readily available option across London at short notice.

“In doing so, the MPS recognises the need to consult widely and the importance of public debate in support of the British Policing Model.

“In the interim, the MPS has already responded with an increase in trained officers to work with Kestrel Teams (teams deployed with baton rounds). This increase in capacity has already enabled the MPS to make more agile use of this tactic.”

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