Ban on the use of controversial water cannon for crowd control is the right move, says Hackney MP Diane Abbott

Pic: Klaus Gaeth

A Wasserwerfer water cannon   Pic: Klaus Gaeth

Hackney MP Diane Abbott has come out in support of the decision to ban the use of water cannon on the streets of London and throughout the UK.

The MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington said she agreed with Home Secretary Theresa May who this week refused to authorise police to use water cannon when enforcing crowd control.

Abbott said: “Twice in my time as an MP I have seen public disorder on the streets of Hackney. First the poll tax riots, then the events following the shooting of Mark Duggan. I take these issues very seriously.

Dianne Abbot Pic: Alex Hilton

Diane Abbott MP Pic: Alex Hilton

“But I do not believe, and I think Londoners do not believe, that undermining a centuries-old tradition of policing by consent is the way to go on these very serious matters. Many Londoners will be relieved water cannon have not been authorised.”

The Home Secretary’s decision is a blow to London Mayor Boris Johnson who last year gave the go-ahead to Scotland Yard to buy three German-built Ziegler Wasserwerfer 9000 cannon.  The controversial purchase followed the riots that tore through Croydon and Hackney in August 2011.

Costing in excess of £200,000 in total, the three 25-year-old machines bought from the German police would now require the procurement of a special order for use from the Home Secretary in the event of major riots.

The 26-tonne Wasserwerfer 9000 has a capacity of 9,000 litres which can be sprayed 65 metres at extremely high velocity. The cannons can also be configured to spray dye, allowing police to later identify troublemakers.

May said the cannons could cause grave injuries including blunt trauma and fractures and cited the case of a 66-year-old German man who was blinded during a protest in Stuttgart after bearing the force of the Wasserwerfer’s powerful jet.

Boris Johnson has previously offered to be placed in the firing line of a Wasserwerfer in order to demonstrate their safety.