'Heads on the block' says Blunkett


David Blunkett last night angrily insisted that the security fiasco which allowed Aaron Barschak to gatecrash Prince William's party must never happen again.

And the Home Secretary gave a clear indication that police chiefs could be sacked following Saturday night's astonishing events.

Scotland Yard Commissioner Sir John Stevens yesterday personally apologised to the Royal Family for the "appalling" security blunder which allowed Barschak to pull off the most serious breach of royal security for more than 20 years.

Mr Blunkett, after receiving a sixpage report on the security scandal, said: "The incident did display a real need to tighten up general security around the Royal Family, and by dint of that for the rest of those who are at risk.

"I think we deserve better from those who are employed to look after our interests."

Asked if heads would roll over the security breakdown, the Home Secretary said: "The heads of the services are in no doubt about that.

"There is no question that after what happened, everyone in every position all the way through counter terrorism forces and royal protection know their heads are on the block."

Mr Blunkett said he was "deeply concerned" by what happened on Saturday. "But more importantly for the future, given that there wasn't a catastrophe, is how we go through the detail and avoid it ever happening again."

The report, he added, had revealed "a number of breaches and a number of areas where we need to take note".

But he rejected any suggestion that he should resign over the security lapse. "If I were responsible for anything that happened on Saturday night I would (resign) but of course I'm not and I don't think that situation arises," he said.

Mr Blunkett said he will make a full statement to the Commons today after reading the dossier.

Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner David Veness - who as head of Specialist Operations oversees the running of the Yard's Royalty Protection Department - was forced to make a humiliating apology to the royals for the fiasco.

"The events at Windsor Castle are wholly unacceptable and a matter of great regret," he said.

"The Commissioner has tendered apologies to the Royal Family for the appalling breach of security at Windsor Castle.

"This seems to have been an operational failure, which should not have happened whatever the circumstances."

In addition to the report handed to the Home Secretary yesterday, Scotland Yard has set up an independent inquiry led by Commander Frank Armstrong of the City of London Police, an expert on protection.

Scotland Yard would not comment on whether any officers have been moved to "non-operational duties" in the aftermath of the security fiasco.

Despite a supposedly sophisticated system which includes alarms, infra-red CCTV cameras and hightech sensor pads which can distinguish between man and animals, Barschak was able to gain access to the most secure area of the castle.

Although police sources insisted the fiasco was the result of "human errors", there was a growing consensus last night that the shambles was caused by a systematic failure and that a number of senior officers' jobs are on the line.

Yard chiefs are well aware that Barschak could easily have been a suicide bomber who could have wiped out three generations of the Royal Family.

At Scotland Yard Sir John Stevens, Mr Veness and the head of royalty protection Commander Peter Loughborough all face difficult questions over the coming days.

As head of the organisation, Sir John knows the buck must always stop with him. Mr Veness takes responsibility for overseeing royal security, while Commander Loughborough would have specifically approved security measures for William's party.

Before the party, Barschak was seen outside Windsor Castle parading in a peach-coloured dress, turban, sunglasses and false beard as guests arrived for the much-publicised party.

He was gently led away from onlookers by a uniformed policeman and wandered off towards Windsor town centre away from the castle - only to return in the most sensational fashion.

The officer who is most at risk of immediate censure is the 50-yearold royalty protection officer who did not check Barschak's credentials and allowed him through an armed checkpoint within the castle's grounds.

Barschak, who was arrested on suspicion of burglary, was bailed to return to a London police station on a date next month pending further inquiries. Senior police sources said it was "highly unlikely" he would face any charges.

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