A huge security operation is being co-ordinated in central London for the funeral of Baroness Thatcher to avoid any potential disruption on the day, with CCTV to play a key role in the operation.
The former Prime Minister’s funeral, with full military honours, is to take place on Wednesday April 17. Starting from Westminster, the coffin will be taken by hearse to the RAF Chapel on The Strand before it is transferred to a gun carriage for the journey to St Paul’s Cathedral.
It has been confirmed the Queen will attend with the Duke of Edinburgh, while Prime Minister David Cameron and former PMs and top MPs will be there along with hundreds of foreign dignitaries. St Paul’s has a capacity for 2500 ticketed guests but thousands more are expected to gather outside and line the funeral route.
Police are gearing up for a massive security operation on the scale of the Olympics and the royal wedding in 2011.
Fears were heightened when street parties broke out on the news of her death and the likelihood of further protests and demonstrations means a huge security presence is required.
There remains a potential risk from dissident Irish republican terrorists, militant far left groups, Islamic fanatics and anarchists. In addition there are reports of trade union groups from coal mining districts that were devastated during the Thatcher years planning to travel to London.
Thatcher polarised opinions during her time in office, and the IRA targeted her in the 1984 Brighton bombing.
The huge security operation is estimated to cost between £8 million and £10 million and will see three forces, the Metropolitan Police, City of London police and British Transport Police, all working together. Officers are set to form a ‘ring of steel’ along the two-mile ceremonial route, with police marksmen and SAS forces deployed as part of the operation.
Whitehall committee ‘Operation True Blue’ met for the first time on Tuesday. It was attended by representatives from Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), MI5 and National Security Secretariat and will now meet daily.
Thatcher’s health has been declining in recent years and police have reportedly spent three years planning the funeral, with a view to ensuring that nothing stops the procession.
A Met spokesman confirmed: “London’s police, the MPS, City of London and British Transport Police are working together to deliver a security operation for Baroness Thatcher’s funeral. Given the nature of the event, our operation will use of a range of appropriate tactics.”
The parade route itself is covered by two London boroughs, Westminster and the City of London, and the CCTV control rooms are planning for their role in the huge security operation.
Robert McAlister, Head of City Co-Ordination for Westminster City Council, told SecurityNewsDesk there are daily briefings and joint work between the police and the two boroughs.
It is a co-ordinated effort to assist in the overall policing plan and work has already begun to make sure CCTV cameras in the area are working properly and priority areas on the route where trouble could flare are identified. However, he admitted the slower pace of the procession once the coffin is moved to the gun carriage could present “more of a challenge” for the security operation.
“There can be some issues around disruption or potential demonstrations on the route, which could be on the day or the night before,” said McAlister.
“We’re having daily briefings and updates and that’s at gold, silver and bronze levels of the organisation, so it’s being cascaded from the top right the way through to the officers on the ground.”
Emotions will be running high on the day. “It’s divided public attention. There will be some outbursts of commiserating and there will be other people who are celebrating, so we will gear ourselves up for all the types of people who will be coming to the funeral – which can be a challenge,” he said.
McAlister added that the experiences learnt from the Jubilee Celebrations and the London Olympics last year will stand the security operation in good stead as a lot of procedures for sharing information were put in place between control rooms, the police and other agencies.