Election 2017: Armed Police to Guard Polling Stations After London Attack

A police officer stands outside a polling station at a community hall in Tower Hamlets on May 7, 2015 in London, England.
Dan Kitwood/Getty

Armed police are to be deployed to patrol polling stations Thursday, and exclusion zones to prevent voter intimidation are to be established in some areas when Britain votes to select their next government.

Firearms officers are to be deployed to polling stations in Essex and Cleveland Thursday, as local forces deploy security assets to defend citizens while they exert their democratic right in the wake of a number of terror attacks. In Tower Hamlets in East London, “almost all” polling stations will have uniformed officers and exclusion zones to protect voters.

George Osborne’s Evening Standard reports the Bethnal Green & Bow and Poplar & Limehouse seats in Tower Hamlets need to have their democratic processes protected because of routine voter intimidation.

Labour candidate Jim Fitzpatrick said of the move: “There’s different ways to campaign on polling day and in certain communities the culture is to get a number of supporters outside polling stations to demonstrate the support that they have. For most of us, that’s intimidating and should be discouraged. The police are there to make sure the area around the polling station is completely sterile.”

Police are also being deployed to polling stations elsewhere in the country following the nation suffering three terror attacks in nine weeks, two of them within the campaigning period of the general election.

Local newspaper to Essex the Echo News reports the remarks of the county chief of police ahead of the extraordinary deployment of armed police to polling stations this week, who said: “Following the awful event of the weekend we are looking at all of the events where people will be gathering, whether that’s on the coast, whether that’s market places, and that will include the polling stations.

“We do need people to go out there and use their democratic mandate for whatever purpose they want, but I think when you see this type of vile challenge on our lifestyle, more than ever people need to go out there and vote and we will do our very best to try and keep them safe.”

The officer said that while not all polling stations would receive an armed guard, “some” would, while others would enjoy a “visible police presence”.

The Hartlepool Mail reports similar remarks from Cleveland Police’s Assistant Chief Constable Jason Harwin, who said of the preparations for Thursday’s vote: “In our own area we continue to do our part. In this election week we know people will be concerned and we’ll have patrols of both armed and unarmed officers out during the coming days; including when we go to the polls on Thursday.”

While the presence of armed police in these areas has been made clear, in others police report they are to “beef-up” security at polling stations on Thursday. The Bromley Times and Gravesend Reporter state polling stations are to see  “enhanced security” in their areas this week.

A Kent local government spokesman said: “Additional safety measures have been put in place and we are working closely with Kent Police to ensure the safety of voters and staff.”

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