Home Office denies carnival 'blind eye'

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The Independent Online

The Home Office denied yesterday that police adopted a "softly-softly" approach to the Notting Hill Carnival as the Mayor of London prepared to meet senior officers to discuss how to avoid a repeat of the violence at this year's event.

The Home Office denied yesterday that police adopted a "softly-softly" approach to the Notting Hill Carnival as the Mayor of London prepared to meet senior officers to discuss how to avoid a repeat of the violence at this year's event.

Two people were murdered and 19 stabbed at the August bank holiday carnival in London, which was followed by claims that police adopted a deliberately low profile and ended up losing control.

About 1.5 million people attended this year's carnival, which has grown to become Europe's biggest street party, and one long-serving officer claimed that despite the presence of 7,500 officers, police control broke down towards the end of bank holiday Monday. The officer suggested that police on the ground were encouraged by superiors to turn a blind eye to non-violent offences, including drug taking.

Yesterday the Home Office minister Mike O'Brien said policing of the carnival would be reviewed but defended the Metropolitan Police operation this year. He said: "What the Metropolitan Police did at the Notting Hill Carnival was increase the number of arrests by 84 per cent. That is not a softly-softly approach - that is proper policing, exercising good judgement.

"Of course the way in which the policing of the carnival was carried out will be reviewed by the police... and also the organisers will want to discuss with the police issues like how they can ensure that the serious stabbings of a number of people and the killings of two people can be avoided in the future. But I don't accept the anonymous allegations that there was a softly-softly approach. I think it's time to stop knocking the police all the time.

"Sometimes there are carnivals when they are accused of policing too hard, other carnivals they are accused of policing too softly. I think it's time to stop knocking the police and support the police."

Ken Livingstone is to hold talks with all those involved in the carnival's organisation on its future shape, after Scotland Yard said its growth meant it was time to "reflect" on arrangements. Possible changes include an earlier finishing time to combat after-dark crime, new policing strategies, and even moving the event from the narrow streets of Notting Hill to a more open location.

* The Met was criticised last night after it failed to prevent a two-day illegal rave in Tolworth, near Kingston upon Thames.

An estimated 2,000 people attended the rave after the officers on patrol on Friday night were quickly outnumbered. Local councillors claimed they were told by Scotland Yard no extra officers were available to evict the crowd on Friday or Saturday.

Police said the event was allowed to go ahead on public safety grounds. The organisers reportedly threatened to hold it in the centre of Kingston if they were turned away.

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