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Notting Hill Carnival 'must be made safer', policing report says

  • 17 January 2017
  • From the section London
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Notting Hill Carnival parade Image copyright PA
Image caption An estimated one million visitors and 50,000 performers attend Notting Hill Carnival

Notting Hill Carnival poses a "real risk to public safety" and in 2016 saw four stabbings so serious the victims nearly died, according to a report.

The event - at which 450 arrests were made last year - must be made safer, London's mayor has been warned.

It is one of Europe's largest carnivals with up to 7,000 police on duty, 50,000 performers and a million visitors.

The London Assembly Police and Crime Committee said overcrowding and a rise in violent crime were the main issues.

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The 2016 carnival was policed by 6,000 Met officers on Saturday and Sunday and 7,000 officers on August bank holiday Monday.

More than 400 people were arrested at Carnival in 2016, the highest since 2008. Police said they had seized 90 offensive weapons while patrolling the event.

In 2015, officers made about 300 arrests for a range of offences during the festival, including assault, criminal damage, public order offences and theft.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Police warned the event came close to a major failure in public safety in 2016

In its latest report the London Assembly Police and Crime Committee said the annual event urgently needed rethinking.

"The police warn of the risk of a 'Hillsborough' scale tragedy; it would be foolish to ignore these voices," it said.

"Each year, and last year was no exception, we came exceptionally close to a major catastrophic failure of public safety where members of the public would face serious injury," Met Police public order commander David Musker told the committee.

For example, the report said, on the Ladbroke Grove section of the route, carnival floats and support vehicles caused people to be pushed to the sides of the road and police officers had to dive in to pull children and distressed adults out of the crowd.

In All Saints Road, in another part of the route close to Tavistock Gardens, the safety barriers collapsed on three occasions because of the large number of people crowding around the static sound systems in the road, the report said.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Police and revellers have mixed together happily at the carnival in recent years

"Public concern about the level of crime at carnival is nothing new. But we are now seeing a rise in more serious and violent crimes: this year four stabbings almost became murders," it added.

The report said 396 crimes were recorded at the 2016 carnival, up from 343 in 2010, with offences of violence against people rising from 81 to 151 in the same period.

"Traditionally, the vast majority of offences have been related to theft and drugs. The number of violent crimes, however, is rising," it said.

"Several of those violent incidents were serious and nearly resulted in loss of life: something that has not happened at carnival in over a decade."

Media captionJo Jordan says the number of people enjoying carnival outweighs those making trouble

In August, the Metropolitan Police Federation said its rank and file officers experienced "dread" of policing the carnival, which saw 43 officers injured at the event in 2016, eight of whom required hospital treatment.

The dual issues of overcrowding and violent crime had produced "a tipping point", the report said.

It has called on London Mayor Sadiq Khan to help make the event safer after his predecessor Boris Johnson took similar action on another large scale London event such as the New Year's Eve celebrations.

The report recommends the mayor help put the carnival organisers on a more stable financial position which "will in turn improve its ability to deliver a safer and more secure carnival."

The committee also wants the mayor to lead a review to see where the event can improve safety.

'Bleeding and running'

Jo Jordan, a 22-year-old singer-song writer, originally from Wembley, north-west London, was stabbed at the carnival on bank holiday Monday last year and has been left with an immobile left wrist.

Mr Jordan said: "I was robbed of my watch and when I went to get it back off the people who took it I was surrounded by a group and one of them stabbed me in the left arm.

"The next bit was a blur. I was bleeding and running into people and luckily came across two police officers who helped me until the paramedics arrived.

"I know what happened to me wasn't very nice but I wouldn't want them to change carnival or the location of it or anything. It was just one of those things that could have happened to me anywhere.

"I've been coming every year for five years with my friends and we love the party atmosphere."

Sophie Linden, the Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, said there were specific concerns being examined this year and that "they have commissioned a study to understand what more can be done to keep revellers safe, given the huge numbers who take part".

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