The U.K. government blocked the use of water cannons in England and Wales due to fears over safety and damaging “policing by consent.”
Police asked for permission to use the cannons but Home Secretary Theresa May told lawmakers Wednesday their deployment would be counter-productive and risk unacceptable injuries.
The announcement is a blow to London Mayor Boris Johnson, who bought three secondhand cannons in June 2014 from the German federal police for about 30,000 pounds ($50,000) each.
There have been discussions over the use of water cannons for riot control in Britain since the August 2011 unrest that saw looting and arson in London and other English cities. Police in Northern Ireland already have permission to use the weapons.
Explaining her decision, May said there were “direct and indirect risks” posed by the use of the cannons, such as threat of spinal fracture, concussion and eye injury.
She also said she was “acutely conscious” of the potential impact of water cannons on the public’s perception of police legitimacy.
Johnson told Sky News television that he will keep the machines and reapply for permission to use them if there is an occasion in which “life and limb and property” are at risk.
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