Man arrested after car crashes into gates of Downing Street
A man has been arrested after a car was driven into the gates outside Downing Street.
No one was injured, and a brief Metropolitan police statement said armed officers arrested a man on suspicion of criminal damage and dangerous driving after the car struck the gates blocking the entrance to the street, where it joins Whitehall. A section of Whitehall was cordoned off after the incident at around 4.20pm on Thursday.
Police said the man was taken into custody but gave no details about him.
Rishi Sunak was inside the Downing Street complex, which includes the flats for the prime minister and chancellor, as well as a network of offices that connect to other government buildings. He left soon afterwards.
Footage of the incident, obtained by BBC News, shows the silver Kia hatchback drive laterally across Whitehall and towards the heavily reinforced gates before slowing down and striking them at apparently low speed.
Subsequent photos showed the car with its boot open, seemingly for police to search it. There was no immediate word on why the man might have driven into the gates.
A witness, Simon Parry, 44, told the PA news agency: “I heard a bang and looked up and saw loads of police with Taser guns shouting at the man. A lot of police vehicles came very quickly and were very quick to evacuate the area.”
Parry said the driver had his face to the floor as he was being arrested.
In a statement released nearly two hours after the crash, the Met said: “A small cordon remains in place outside Downing Street after a car collided with the gates earlier this afternoon. The incident is being dealt with by local officers in Westminster and isn’t currently being treated as terror-related.”
The black metal gates were constructed in the 1980s amid security restrictions connected to possible IRA attacks, blocking public access to the entire road.
To enter on foot people must show a pass or be invited, while access for vehicles is restricted by the gates, which are always guarded by armed police, and retractable security bollards further in.
While there is no indication as yet that the incident was terrorism-related, such security gates are increasingly common around official buildings due to incidents in which attackers have used vehicles as weapons.
In 2017, an Islamist attacker killed four people in his car on Westminster Bridge before crashing it into the fence around parliament. He ran inside and fatally stabbed a police officer, PC Keith Palmer, before being shot dead.
Vehicle access to the parliamentary estate is also only possible via reinforced gates.