Met chief says police targeted a criminal network during Coronation

King Charles Coronation: Republic protesters arrested by police

Police were up against a “criminal network” determined to wreak havoc at King Charles’ Coronation, Met chief Sir Mark Rowley has said.

He said his force received “serious and reliable” intelligence that anti-monarchists would use rape alarms and loudhailers to terrify horses.

They also planned to “extensively” vandalise monuments and hurl paint over Saturday’s procession, he added.

Sir Mark said officers were so concerned, they briefed Home Secretary Suella Braverman and London’s mayor Sadiq Khan on Friday night.

Meanwhile, MPs said Scotland Yard should not have to apologise and police were “doing their job” to protect the public.

Writing in a newspaper, Sir Mark called the arrests “unfortunate”, but blasted “ill-informed commentary” about officers’ actions.

He said: “Protest is an important right in any democracy, but it is limited and has to be carefully balanced alongside consideration for the rights of others so they too can go about their normal business – in this case participating in a once-in-a-generation event.

“Parliament has created laws requiring police to act to bring this careful balance.

“By Friday evening, only 12 hours from the Coronation, we had become extremely concerned by a rapidly developing intelligence picture suggesting the Coronation could suffer.

“This included people intent on using rape alarms and loudhailers as part of their protest, which would have caused distress to military horses. We also had intelligence that people intended to extensively vandalise monuments, throw paint at the procession and incur on to the route.”

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The Commissioner said military chiefs feared loud noises could unsettle horses and cause multiple injuries.

He added: “The threat was so concerning that on Friday the Home Secretary and mayor were given late-night briefings as plans were being put in place. Officers worked around the clock to try to identify the full criminal network, establish the detail of their plans, and make arrests.

“We found people in possession of possible lock-on devices and people that appeared to be purporting to be stewards of the event in possession of plastic bottles containing white paint, which we believe were specifically to be used to criminally disrupt the procession.”

Sir Mark said it resulted in arrests for going equipped to commit criminal damage. He added: “Much of the ill-informed commentary on the day is wholly inaccurate – for example, protest was not banned. Our activity was targeted at those we believed were intent on causing serious disruption and criminality.

“Serious and reliable intelligence told us that the risks were very real.

“Fifty-three individuals have been bailed and most of the following investigations will be lengthy as we work towards criminal charges.”

Home Office minister Chris Philp told the Commons: “We had specific intelligence that people planned to disrupt the Coronation by creating a stampede of horses and covering the ceremonial procession in paint.

“The Public Order Act 2023 is designed to stop that kind of disruption, while of course allowing peaceful protest.”

Police chiefs have expressed “regret” over the pre-Coronation arrest of six Republic protesters, after a probe was unable to prove they intended to disrupt the event.

They were the first arrests made under the sweeping Public Order Act, which came into force last week.

They were held under suspicion of going equipped to “lock-on” – a measure protesters use to make it harder for police to move them.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said it was right for officers to have the power to tackle “serious disruption”.

Tory MP Michael Fabricant said: “I can say that ordinary police officers doing a decent job, as they did on Saturday, find their morale is at rock bottom when they’re given the instruction, ‘We will deal robustly with anyone intent on undermining the celebrations’ – which came from the Met Police on May 3 – and then finding someone is apologising for them doing just that.”

Fellow Tory James Daly said: “It is reassuring that for once, the Metropolitan Police acted on the side of the hard-working public, rather than being the victims of Left-wing protest groups.”

Sixty-four people were arrested at the weekend, 52 over concerns that the Coronation may be disrupted.

Volunteers for charity Night Star, which hands out rape alarms to women returning from nights out, were arrested in Soho, central London, in the early hours of Saturday.

The six Republic campaigners were arrested that morning and detained for 16 hours before being released.

Republic’s chief executive, Graham Smith, who was among those held, said the group was considering legal action against the Met.

Mr Khan has asked the force for further information about why the Republic supporters and Night Star volunteers were arrested.

Ex-Greater Manchester Police chief, Sir Peter Fahy, criticised the Public Order Act as being “very poorly defined and too broad”.

Tory MP, David Davis, said the legislation was “too crude” and called on the Commons home affairs committee to investigate.

  • Tom Hunt is the MP for Ipswich.

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