Police today admitted they were prepared to use plastic bullets against rioters if a fourth night of lawlessness sees gangs of youths marauding across London and looting businesses.
With an 'unprecedented' 16,000 police officers due on the streets of London tonight, answers were today being demanded over the failure of police to bring last night's riots under control.
Just hours after David Cameron warned rioters they would face the 'full force of the law' there were rumours on Twitter that violence was already starting up again in isolated areas across the capital.
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Croydon: A woman leaps from a burning building in Surrey Street, after flames threaten to engulf her. People stand to catch her as she jumps to safety
Hackney: Anarchy broke out last night as hooded youths set fire to cars, bins and buildings as police battled to bring them under control
'You will feel the full force of the law': David Cameron issued a stark warning to rioters and looters as he spoke outside Number 10 today
Asked if plastic bullets could be used, Assistant Commissioner Steve Kavanagh said: 'That's a tactic that will be used by the Metropolitan police if deemed necessary.'
He added that was 'not going to throw 180 years of policing with the community away' as the prospect of using the non-lethal ammunition for the first time at a British disturbance was raised.
The army of police officers on-duty in London will swell to 16,000 tonight - compared with just 6,000 last night - as reinforcements are drafted in from 26 forces across the country.
Mr Kavanagh said he apologised 'that London has got to wake up to these scenes'.
'We need to do better for London because those images last night were shocking for everyone,' Mr Kavanagh told reporters.
Today huge swathes of the capital woke up to the charred debris of burned out buildings and streets littered with waste. David Cameron has recalled Parliament for the day on Thursday as he pledged to bring the situation under control.
Theresa May caused fury today by appearing to rule out using the Army and water cannons to quell any future disorder. Police were last night criticised for being absent when much of the looting and ransacking took place and, when they were present, keeping their distance from rioters.
Plastic bullets could be used if there are further disturbances tonight - for the first time ever during riots, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stephen Kavanagh said.
Every police cell in the capital was full today, forcing officers to transport suspects outside the city.
Today the riots claimed their first life as a 26-year-old man who was shot as he sat in a car during rioting in Croydon died in hospital.
After cutting short his Tuscany holiday to deal with the worsening public disorder crisis, Mr Cameron said today: 'We will do everything necessary to restore order to Britain's streets and to make them safe for the law-abiding.
'Let me, first of all, completely condemn the scenes that we have seen on our television screens and people have witnessed in their communities.
'These are sickening scenes - scenes of people looting, vandalising, thieving, robbing, scenes of people attacking police officers and even attacking fire crews as they're trying to put out fires. This is criminality, pure and simple, and it has to be confronted and defeated.