A ‘Hillsborough’ scale tragedy’ could occur at London’s Notting Hill Carnival an official report has warned following last year’s event where four people were stabbed so seriously they almost died.
The three-day carnival, one of Europe’s largest with up to 7,000 police on duty, 50,000 performers and over one million visitors, resulted in 450 arrests in 2016, and is a “real risk to public safety” the mayor has been told.
The London Assembly Police and Crime Committee identified overcrowding and a rise in violent crime, as the main issues, the BBC reported.
“The police warn of the risk of a ‘Hillsborough’ scale tragedy; it would be foolish to ignore these voices,” it said. The Hillsborough disaster in April 1989 resulted in 96 deaths.
The mayor’s office for police and crime (Mopec) was told the carnival needed rethinking and that Sadiq Khan must consider warnings from police that every year the festival had come close to a “major catastrophic failure of public safety”.
“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,” Metropolitan Police public order commander David Musker told the committee.
On Ladbroke Grove police officers had to rescue distressed children and adults from the crowd last year after carnival floats and vehicles had caused people to be pushed to the sides of the roads, the report said.
And on All Saints Road safety barriers collapsed on three occasions because of crowds gathering around speakers.
“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,” the report said.
The majority of the 396 crimes recorded at the carnival, the report said, were related to theft and drugs, but violent crimes were rising. One hundred and fifty one people were charged with violent crimes in 2016.
“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,” Musker said.
Arrests at the festival last year were the highest since 2010.
The 2016 carnival was policed by 6,000 Met officers on Saturday and Sunday and 7,000 officers on the August Bank Holiday Monday, at a cost of £8 million.
The mayor’s office has yet to officially respond to the report but has ruled out moving or cancelling the festival, the BBC reported.