Dirty bomb victims 'may be shot'
Scotsman.com | July 24, 2006
BY JOHN INNES
POLICE could be forced to shoot members of the public to maintain order in the event of a terrorist "dirty bomb" or biological attack on Britain, it was claimed yesterday.
The Police Federation annual conference in Blackpool was told that so few officers have been trained to deal with a chemical, biological, nuclear or radiological strike that they would have to resort to "very unsavoury but necessary" crowd control.
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Bob Elder, the chairman of the constables’ central committee, did not refer specifically to officers firing on civilians, but sources within the organisation said it was clear police could have to resort to firearms to stop contamination being spread by fleeing victims.
The government had failed to explain how important it would be to keep the public inside a cordon after such an atrocity, Mr Elder said.
"This is not about creating mass hysteria," he said. "This is about the opposite. The public has a right to know.
"The natural reaction from the public caught up in such an incident will be to get as far away from the scene as possible. This could, of course, only extend the problem."
In another reference to the possible use of firearms to keep control of an area, Mr Elder added: "We will be the ones who would have to carry out that containment and we would be the ones held responsible for our actions - whatever those may be."
Asked if he could foresee officers firing on civilians, he said: "It’s an option the government is going to have to consider. We haven’t got enough cops trained to deal with full-scale containment and it’s putting everyone at risk."
A spokesman for the Home Office insisted police would not have powers to shoot the public to enforce a cordon in the event of a chemical, biological, nuclear or radiological strike attack.
"Police have the right to detain people if they present a risk to the public," he said. "There are no circumstances in which police could operate some kind of shoot to kill policy under the law."
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