Blunkett tries to dismiss royal security fears

Click to follow
Indy Politics

David Blunkett was accused of "extreme complacency" yesterday as he played down the security scare provoked by a demonstrator dressed as Batman who scaled the front of Buckingham Palace.

David Blunkett was accused of "extreme complacency" yesterday as he played down the security scare provoked by a demonstrator dressed as Batman who scaled the front of Buckingham Palace.

With the future of royal security chiefs hanging in the balance over the stunt by Fathers 4 Justice, the Home Secretary insisted the situation had been well-handled by police.

Jason Hatch, who staged the protest, and his fellow campaigner Dave Pyke, who allegedly distracted palace guards while dressed as Batman's sidekick Robin, were released on police bail yesterday until December.

Mr Hatch was arrested on suspicion of criminal damage, while Mr Pyke was questioned over aiding and abetting a criminal act. There were doubts last night over whether they would be charged over the five-hour protest.

But the recriminations continued yesterday as Sir John Stevens, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, studied a report into Monday's incident. A copy was passed to the Queen, who is at her Balmoral residence, but reports that she was angry over the break-in were denied by royal sources.

Mr Blunkett acknowledged that not all security systems at the palace had "worked perfectly", although he said the cameras and alarms had operated properly.

He said: "I don't think there's a point in having palaces and monuments and inviting tourists from all over the world if we are so afraid of terrorists we won't let anyone get anywhere near them." Later, speaking at the Police Superintendents' Association conference in Warwickshire, Mr Blunkett said: "I don't think it helps us deal with the real terrorist threat to over-exaggerate the risk from yesterday.

"I'm prepared for heads to roll if the head is of the person responsible for failing to do their duty. But simply to have a head rolling for the sake of a 24-hour headline would not be very clever."

David Davis, the shadow Home Secretary, said that the reaction had been "extremely complacent, both by the Home Secretary and the police". He added: "Of course, it was the right decision not to shoot the man but we don't know that will always be the right decision. What on earth would we be seeing today if this was a serious terrorist attack?"

Following the fourth serious breach of royal security in two years, Sir John will hold talks with the palace's recently-appointed director of security liaison, Brigadier Jeff Cook.

Commander Peter Loughborough, the head of royal protection, is thought likely to be moved to other duties. Mr Hatch, 32, said last night: "The Government has made activists of loving fathers. It was easier to get to the Queen's balcony than it is to see my own children.

"I would do anything, literally anything, even die, to get to see my own children."

His group, which held a brief press conference outside Buckingham Palace after his release, vowed to stage further stunts in the coming months, hinting that this month's Labour Conference in Brighton could be one of the targets.

Comments