Condon calls for laws that stop criminals getting guns: London police chief's report shows big rise in use of firearms against his officers

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The Independent Online
TOUGHER LAWS to prevent criminals obtaining guns were urged by one of Britain's most senior police officers yesterday, as it was revealed that the number of incidents in which firearms were used in assaults on police in London have risen more than sixfold in the past year.

Sir Paul Condon, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, called for a crackdown on illegal firearms as he launched his force's annual report, which for the first time in six years revealed a drop in the number of recorded crimes in the capital. They fell by 5 per cent, to 895,894.

But there was also an increase in the number of reported sexual assaults on women and men - 'male rapes'. There were sharp rises in the number of reported racial incidents (18 per cent) and violence, of which there were more than 41,000 victims last year.

Sir Paul said yesterday that he was particularly worried about the growing availability of guns and the increasing willingness of criminals to use them.

Firearms were brandished 41 times and fired on 23 occasions in assaults on police officers in the past year. This compares with six the previous year.

The police are concerned about the growing trade in 'deactivated' firearms from Eastern Europe. The guns, which are imported as ornaments and are supposed to have been made safe, are reactivated by gunsmiths and criminals once they reach Britain, Sir Paul said.

He also highlighted the criminals 'who act as quartermasters offering weapons on loan, hire or sale'.

'Seventy-five per cent of firearms have been recycled from legitimate dealers through a variety of scams,' he said. He warned that action was needed to ensure that Britain did not adopt the 'gun culture' found in the United States.

To deal with the problem he called for stronger sentences for unlawful possession of guns and urged Parliament to look again at the regulation of gun dealers.

The report also reveals that there were 15 per cent more assaults on police officers while on duty. Two officers were murdered. More than 3,900 were injured while more serious assaults, which resulted in officers staying off work, rose by more than 50 per cent to 1,007. Knives or other sharp instruments were used in 45 attacks.

He also reported that:

Sexual offences rose by 14 per cent in the past year to 6,874. The biggest increases were in cases of indecent assaults on males - a rise of 204 cases to 708; indecent assaults on females, which rose from 3,368 to 3,724 and unlawful intercourse with under-age girls.

There were about 41,500 violent offences against people, an increase of 8 per cent on the previous year. In less than 6 per cent of the total cases a sharp instrument, such as a knife, was used and fewer than 2 per cent involved the use of a firearm. More than half of the additional offences involved domestic violence. There was a reduction in the total number of murders, from 172 to 166 - 88 per cent of which were solved.

Racial incidents rose by 18 per cent to 5,060. About one-third of victims were assaulted; a similar number suffered criminal damage and a quarter abusive language; 30 per cent of the crimes were cleared up.

A traffic 'calming' scheme involving 21 speed cameras in west London is calculated to have saved at least 16 lives and prevented more than 200 accidents. The reduction is estimated to have saved pounds 14.6m.

Police reported an increasing number of incidents involving mentally ill people released into the community from hospitals.

The number of crimes solved increased by 6 per cent to nearly 160,000 and a target of 190,000 has been set for next year. But only 18 per cent of all reported crimes are solved.

Burglaries from domestic homes fell by 15 per cent after a police campaign.

Thefts of vehicles and goods inside them have dropped by 19,000 - an 8 per cent decline, although the number of crimes solved remains very low.

Drug trafficking offences rose by 3 per cent to about 2,000.

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