Another Brick in the Wall – SMBS

This entry is part 2 of 8 in the series UK Police

Several police forces across the UK are now the proud owners of Cobham plc’s ‘Scene Management Barrier System’; a 10 foot high, 13 metre long solid steel cordon designed to be used during chemical, radiological, biological or nuclear (CRBN) incidents.

Cobham’s brochure describes it thus;

“A lockable rear door enables rapid access of police in full CBRN or public order PPE [personal protective equipment]. Polycarbonate viewing portals with privacy shutters allow monitoring of crowd activities and assessment of intent, while the roof provides some hard cover protection from a hostile crowd.”

Further equipped with CCTV and an IMSI catcher to intercept/monitor mobile phone calls, the SMBS only takes two people to set up (though police sources have reported that moving SMBS can be “…very unforgiving…too much speed when towing one will destabilise the towing vehicle…therefore not easy to deploy in quick developing situations . . .”), can be combined with a ‘Public Communications System’ (a trailer with 2 loudspeakers and an LED screen on top, controllable by remote) and may be connected together in multiples to form an even longer wall too.


Increasingly SMBS are seen being used to restrict the movement of protestors at lawful demonstrations, and they have so far been deployed by City of London, Metropolitan, West Midlands, Sussex, South Wales, Leicestershire, and Greater Manchester police. It seems certain that this list will increase – 200 were purchased by the Home Office in 2008 for “CBRN preparedness” and are now available “for any police force in the country to use, for any purpose at all”.

Dorset-based manufacturers Cobham are a major developer and supplier of a variety of military, police and aerospace equipment (including to the International Space Station), and rank 51st among the Defense News list of Top 100 defence contractors.

“Tools and technology created and purchased for one purpose are often ultimately used for another; this kind of “mission creep”…where technologies that are initially intended for use only in the most serious national security cases gradually enter regular policing.”

Privacy International

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