Gatwick drone chaos should be wake-up call to UK, says Met chief

Cressida Dick rules out taking over investigation amid calls for more robust procedure to deal with such incidents

Passengers wait in the South Terminal building at Gatwick shortly after the airport reopened to flights following its forced closure because of drone activity.

Passengers wait in the South Terminal building at Gatwick shortly after the airport reopened to flights following its forced closure because of drone activity.
Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters

The Gatwick drone incident that brought the airport to a standstill should be a “wake-up call” to the whole country, the Metropolitan police commissioner has said.

Cressida Dick, the UK’s most senior police chief, said the Met would not be intervening in the investigation into drone sightings at Gatwick.

It comes after John Woodcock MP, a member of the home affairs

committee, said there was a case for a “different police force” to

investigate the serious security incident.

The transport secretary, Chris Grayling, said police had “not handled their communication response well” after Det Ch Supt Jason Tingley said there was a possibility there never had been any drones at Gatwick.

“This whole sorry episode shows why we need a nationally agreed and

understood robust procedure for dealing with incidents like this,”

Woodcock said. “The country has been caught on the hop. There may be a

case for a different police force [to get involved].”

Dick told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Thursday there “were many sightings of drones on a number of different occasions”.

“The drone technology is always changing – we have to keep up with that. There are a whole variety of tactics and technologies that we are now using, can use and in the future they will have to change again I’m sure, but it is quite difficult,” she said.

“I think the whole country and certainly the government will have watched what’s gone on and say we need to up our game here, we need to work even more closely with the private companies, we need to work even more closely with the military, we need to try to be able to prevent the criminal use of drones for whatever motivation near our airports – and, if somebody does do that, we need to find them as quickly as possible, get the drone under control and also bring the people to justice.”

When questioned about whether the Met would take over any investigation, she said: “Sussex are an enormous way down a large and complex investigation. For the Met to walk in and try to take that on would cause hiatus in the investigation.”

Dick also discussed attacks on the police being filmed by members of the public, calling for people to intervene if they see such incidents. It comes after a female police officer was filmed this year being kicked in the head during the routine traffic stop.

“It’s appalling that officers are being assaulted and in videos you can see others jeering, that is disgusting – not a common thing but it is extraordinary. I want to live in a society where people will intervene and if they see someone from the emergency services being attacked, they will help,” she said.

In a far-ranging interview, Dick also discussed the possibility of no deal on exiting the EU and what that could mean for policing.

“If we come out [without a deal] immediately and there are no obvious replacements for those instruments, that will mean we will have to work incredibly hard on a bilateral basis with countries to get in place some kind of way of working together,” she said.

“The consequences of not having those things and if there was a no-deal scenario, it would be difficult to do in the short term … we will have to replace some of things currently in use in terms of access to databases … these kinds of things – have to replace as effectively as we can and it would be more costly and slower, undoubtedly and it would potentially put the public at risk … there is no doubt about that.”

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