MP slams police chief's comments over shootings

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The Independent Online

Claims that Derrick Bird's murder spree was a "unique event in policing history" were dismissed by an MP as he stepped up his campaign for tougher laws on gun ownership.

Sir Hugh Orde, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, said officers were dealing with unforeseen circumstances as he defended the performances of Cumbrian officers, saying it would not have made a "jot of difference" if a larger force had been in control.

But speaking last night, Chris Williamson, the newly elected Labour MP for Derby North, said: "It's far from being unique. We have had Dunblane and Hungerford. One of these situations is unbearable but three is beyond the pale.

"What I will be looking at trying to do is persuade the Home Secretary that we need to look at some sort of legislation to make another repetition of these appalling massacres far more unlikely.

"I think there needs to be some very strong legislation on this and much tighter restrictions on access to guns. People shouldn't have the access to guns in the way this man had."

Sir Hugh told the BBC's Politics Show: "The chief constable had 40 armed police officers in one of the largest rural areas of the country, they responded very quickly, and frankly, in the last five days, despite much searching, I'm yet to pick up anyone that said this man had a history we should have foreseen.

"It was a completely unexpected and unpredictable event and the response, from a police perspective, was very good.

"That's not to say, of course, there may well be some lessons to be learnt, it was a unique event in the history of policing, a 44-mile spree of murder in the space of about 60 minutes."

Any force would have been hindered by the geography of the area, he added.

"A large number of armed officers deployed very quickly, unarmed officers responding in the way we would expect police officers to respond," he said.

"In terms of the point made about air cover, well frankly, it's not the chief constable's fault that he has a large number of mountains in the area which actually makes helicopter cover technically quite difficult. A helicopter was supplied, we do have well organised, mutual arrangements in place.

A national police force in this circumstance, or even larger forces, in this particular example, would not have made, in my professional judgment, a jot of difference to the response."

His comments came after Chief Constable Craig Mackey said police had no chance of stopping the gun rampage.

Mr Mackey said: "At no stage did any police officer have the chance to end this any sooner."