[UK] Ministers 'covered up' gun crime

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[UK] Ministers 'covered up' gun crime

Postby wrm » Sun, 2008-11-16 07:57

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/u ... 328368.ece

From The Sunday Times
August 26, 2007
Ministers 'covered up' gun crime
David Leppard

THE government was accused yesterday of covering up the full extent of the gun crime epidemic sweeping Britain, after official figures showed that gun-related killings and injuries had risen more than fourfold since 1998.

The Home Office figures - which exclude crimes involving air weapons - show the number of deaths and injuries caused by gun attacks in England and Wales soared from 864 in 1998-99 to 3,821 in 2005-06. That means that more than 10 people are injured or killed in a gun attack every day.

This weekend the Tories said the figures challenged claims by Jacqui Smith, the home secretary, that gun crime was falling. David Davis, the shadow home secretary, tells her in a letter today that the “staggering findings” show her claims that gun crime has fallen are “inaccurate and misleading”.

The political row erupted as Merseyside police continued to question a 15-year-old boy about the murder last week of Rhys Jones in Croxteth, Liver-pool. The 11-year-old was returning from football training when he was shot by a hooded teenager on a bicycle.

Experts are examining a BMX bike abandoned in another area of the city. Six other teenagers, including two girls, from the Croxteth and Norris Green areas were in custody last night. Two others have been released on bail.

Senior officers believe Rhys died because he walked into the line of fire between the gunman and his intended target, who is thought to have been one of three teenagers 30-70 yards away.

Bernard Hogan-Howe, the chief constable of Merseyside, said yesterday: “We still need help in solving this crime. We need witnesses who are prepared to stand up in court.”

Hogan-Howe said he had invested “a huge amount of policing” into the gang-related problems in the Croxteth area and had had a great deal of success.

A minute’s applause was held yesterday at Goodison Park stadium where Everton, the team Rhys loved, were playing Black-burn Rovers. The 11-year-old’s murder has led to a public outcry against Britain’s gang and gun culture and a furious political debate about the government’s efforts to tackle the problem.

Smith last night proposed the setting up of neutral “drop-off zones” where illegal weapons could be handed in. “This means we can actually take that gun out of circulation and stop it from doing harm,” she said.

The Home Office has repeatedly denied gun crime is rising. Last week it pointed to the latest annual crime statistics, which appeared to show that overall gun crime was 13% down on the previous year.

But in his letter to Smith, released today, Davis said these claims were contradicted by figures “buried” in a Home Office statistical bulletin, published ear-lier this year. “[Here] we find the most revealing indication of the true gun-re-lated violence sweeping Britain. Gun-related killings and injuries (excluding air weapons) have increased over fourfold since 1998,” he wrote.

The Home Office said: "We remain fully committed to tackling gang culture and gun and knife crime through responsive policing, tough powers and funding prevention projects."

Rhys’s killing fell on the anniversary of the fatal shooting of Liam Smith, a senior figure in a local gang known as the Strand Gang. Several members of the rival Croxteth Crew were found guilty of his murder.

Locals had said they believed members of the Strand Gang were planning a reprisal shooting to mark the anniversary.

“We always deploy additional resources around these anniversaries,” said Chief Superintendent Chris Armitt. “But we are over half a mile here from Croxteth, and Norris Green is further away again. The additional resources [were] focused only where gangs predominantly operate.”

Extract from letter by David Davis, shadow home secretary, to Jacqui Smith, home secretary, August 24, 2007

Dear Jacqui, We are all concerned at the rising tide of violent crime that has manifested itself this week in a spate of shocking killings, including the tragic death of young Rhys Jones. You told GMTV this morning that “statistics aren’t a help but gun crime is down”. That is an extraordinary claim.

According to Home Office figures, gun crime (excluding air weapons) has almost doubled since Labour took office. The annual crime figures, released by the Home Office in July, suggest a 13% decrease on the previous year, which neglects the 18% increase in firearm homicides.

However, perhaps most telling is the massive increase in gun violence, disclosed on 25 January of this year (Homicides, Firearm Offences and Intimate Violence 2005-06, Home Office). Buried at page 36 . . . we find [that] . . . gun-related killings and injuries (excluding airguns) have increased by over fourfold since 1998.

In light of this information, your claim that gun crime is down is both inaccurate and misleading. One clear fact on gun-related violence is that if you don’t count it, you won’t be able to tackle it. Your predecessors opted for spin over substance. I hope that is a path you will avoid and would be grateful for an explanation of what action you plan.

Yours sincerely, David Davis


How worried should we be about gun crime?

Serious gun crime is concentrated in particular parts of England; internationally, the country has a low death rate from guns


Factfile: teenagers gunned down across UK
Three murders in four days in South London
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Related Links

Applause, not silence, is tribute to Rhys
Gang murder ‘anniversary’ that may have killed Rhys
Police fiddle while children are killed


Pictures: Rhys Jones shooting
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