Letter: How to improve royal security

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The Independent Online
Sir: You are quite right to point out the deficiencies in the Prince of Wales's security (reports, 27 January), which were exposed by Wednesday's mock assassination.

Security placement was a key determinant of effective reaction time in this incident; it did not take Chief Superintendent Colin Trimming four seconds to react, but rather four seconds to get to his principal's side. He appeared to be seated down a narrow aisle to the rear of the Prince and looked poorly placed in terms of both field of vision and ease of movement. The ability to see the attack building and to react from a standing position might have taken two seconds off his reaction time, enabling him to beat the second shot to the Prince.

Having perceived the threat and reacted to it, there was no perceptible strategy to regain control of the situation and limit any damage. The attacker was under control, certainly, subdued by two brave bystanders after he had stumbled over the microphone, but there was no evident strategy to establish a safe zone or to limit damage. Prince Charles, stage centre, was left exposed on three sides and, although he and Mr Trimming conducted themselves with considerable merit throughout, neither appeared to know what to do next. What if there had been a second gunman?

I saw the clip several times and what kept coming back to mind was how much quicker and more structured the response was in the attempted assassination of President Reagan in the early 1980s. In that case, a visible defensive perimeter was formed almost instantly and, within seconds, the intended victim had been secured and removed from the scene. It may be that the two incidents are so different as to defy comparison, but they none the less demonstrate room for improvement in efforts to protect Prince Charles. They also underline the limits of personal protection: President Reagan's security was perfect, but he was still hit.

Yours faithfully,

R. P. GULLETT

London, EC3

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