Britain considers mask ban; may use army if unrest continues

Among the post-riot measures to be enacted in Britain, Reuters reports, will be controls on face coverings and the possible use of the army to suppress future disturbances.

Britain will crack down on gangs and may call in army support if this week's riots are repeated, Prime Minister David Cameron said on Thursday, saying he would not allow a "culture of fear" to exist on the streets.

The government will also give the police powers to demand people remove face coverings after many looters who ransacked shops during riots in London and other English cities this week wore masks to avoid being identified.

For what criminal activities (such as looting) is the appropriate response to demand someone remove a mask, instead of being arresting for the crime?

The Guardian has full details on Prime Minister David Cameron's report today in Parliament:

• Instant messaging services will be reviewed. "We are working with the Police, the intelligence services and industry to look at whether it would be right to stop people communicating via these websites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality," he said.

• The police will have new powers to order people to remove facemasks. "On facemasks, currently [the police] can only remove these in a specific geographical location and for a limited time," Cameron said. "So I can announce today that we are going to give the police the discretion to remove face coverings under any circumstances where there is reasonable suspicion that they are related to criminal activity."

• Curfew powers will be reviewed. "On dealing with crowds, we are also looking at the use of existing dispersal powers and whether any wider power of curfew is necessary," he said.