Yard vows to catch protest thugs


The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall react as their car is attacked (AP)

Scotland Yard has launched a major criminal probe to catch tuition fee thugs following criticism of the way the force handled mass protests in London.

The investigation was announced after Prime Minister David Cameron demanded that demonstrators who defaced war memorials and attacked the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall face the “full force of the law”.

Police have so far arrested 33 people as a result of the havoc in central London that left dozens of officers and protesters injured.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission is examining one incident where a 20-year-old student needed brain surgery after allegedly being hit with a truncheon.

The public order investigation will cover all fee protests held from November 10, when students stormed Tory headquarters in Millbank, until Thursday’s demonstration in Parliament Square.

Mr Cameron warned that it was not possible to blame the distressing scenes on a small militant element when so many in the crowd on Thursday were acting in an “absolutely feral way”.

“The scenes people saw on their TV screens were completely unacceptable,” he said. “I don’t think we can go on saying a small minority were there. There were quite a lot of people who were hell bent on violence and destroying property.”

Charlie Gilmour, son of Pink Floyd frontman David, apologised after being identified as one of those who climbed on the Cenotaph, the nation’s monument to its war dead, as thousands of youngsters vented their fury over the decision by MPs to treble university fees to a maximum of £9,000 a year.

Among the most shocking episodes was the attack on a Rolls-Royce carrying Charles and Camilla by a gang who smashed a window and threw paint while shouting “Off with their heads!”. A Clarence House spokesman refused to confirm reports that the Duchess was poked with a stick through an open window, but stressed that the royal couple did not seek medical help.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson said an investigation was being held into the security breach and added that armed protection officers showed “real restraint” not to open fire as the situation slipped out of control.

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