ARMED police will be on hand at polling stations across Essex this week as voters exercise their democratic right in the wake of the latest terrorist atrocity to hit the nation.

Essex Police’s chief constable Stephen Kavanagh vowed to keep residents safe after the “vile challenge on our lifestyle” which left seven people dead in London at the weekend.

He also said there would be more visible armed officers and other patrols similar in nature to those seen just two weeks ago after a terrorist bomb blast in Manchester.

He said: “Following the awful event of the weekend we are looking at all of the events where people will be gathering, whether that’s on the coast, whether that’s market places, and that will include the polling stations.

“We do need people to go out there and use their democratic mandate for whatever purpose they want, but I think when you see this type of vile challenge on our lifestyle, more than ever people need to go out there and vote and we will do our very best to try and keep them safe.”

In an interview with BBC Essex’s Sadie Nine, Mr Kavanagh said the attack on London Bridge and Borough Market showed public events are becoming increasingly vulnerable.

Mr Kavanagh, who once worked in the Met’s anti-terror squad, also pointed out that subsequent raids and arrests have taken place in Barking and Dagenham, just miles away from London’s border with Essex.

He said: “These incidents are not far from our doorstep so we will need to be vigilant, we do need the public to keep their eyes open and they need to talk to us, call the anti-terror hotline, call 999 if they see something that concerns them.

“What we’ve heard is people do call us now. The challenge we hear every day is that M15 and SO15, my old colleagues in counter-terrorism, are dealing with thousands of reports so they have to try and sort the wheat from the chaff.

“What we see now is that all you need is a carving knife and a vehicle and you can cause mayhem.

“The bomb in Manchester would have required some type of technical expertise, but actually what we’re seeing is increasingly knives and vehicles being used, and they are very difficult to disrupt.

“But we have got to get on with our lives. We have got to show the resoluteness that this county and this country are so famous for.”

Mr Kavanagh said he is prepared to increase the number of Taser-trained officers and the number of armed officers in the county.

He also took the opportunity to confirm that Essex Police will begin using controversial spit guards.

He said: “We are not going to use them all the time. But when someone spits at you, that bodily fluid in your face, in your eyes, in your mouth, it is deeply upsetting. It is a health hazard, they end up in hospital having blood checks.”

An Essex Police spokesman said not all polling stations will be patrolled by armed officers but there would be a visible police presence and some polling stations will see armed officers.