Carnival assaults being played down, say police

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The level of crime at Notting Hill Carnival in London was deliberately understated for "political reasons", a police officers' leader said yesterday.

The level of crime at Notting Hill Carnival in London was deliberately understated for "political reasons", a police officers' leader said yesterday.

Glen Smyth, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, said senior officers discouraged subordinates from making arrests "for fear of sparking a riot situation". He said: "They are asking officers to exercise their discretion and think very carefully [first] about what the effects could be."

Mr Smyth said drug dealers were allowed to operate at the carnival and the number of fatalities was kept down only by the skill of medical staff on duty.

Crimes at the edge of the carnival route or considered "everyday" criminal acts were "written out" of the official carnival crime statistics, he said. "People are downplaying the level of crime at carnival for political reasons because they want it to have a good image. We need to have this debate now or there will be a terrible disaster at the carnival."

Official figures on this year's carnival recorded two murders, 19 stabbings, 69 injuries and 129 arrests among a record attendance of 2.5 million people, policed by 7,500 officers.

Mr Smyth said the streets of Notting Hill could no longer cope with the crowds and anyone attending was being misled on the dangers they faced.

A carnival spokesperson, Steph Harwood, said: "The police figures are absolutely accurate - there is no way they would try to mislead the public. They have surveillance cameras that cover every inch of the route. They can see every incident of crime that goes on."

She said it was not in anybody's interest to massage levels of crime at the carnival, and, given the number of people who were present, "levels of crime are actually pretty low".

But carnival organisers admit a meeting with police this month will consider ways of making the event safer after the 7pm shutdown of the sound systems on the Monday.

The most serious of this year's crimes happened in this period, as night fell and revellers followed the final floats leaving the procession route. Abdul Bhatti, 28, a salesman from Hounslow, west London, was beaten to death as up to 50 youths charged the crowds, attacking and robbing, at about 7.30pm. Greg Watson, 21, from Northolt, west London, was stabbed to death at 10pm.

Tarique Ghaffur, a Metropolitan Police deputy assistant commissioner, said he was "surprised" by the suggestion that a police officer who saw a crime would ignore it.

Comments