Police chiefs push for law forcing hospitals to report all firearms injuries

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The Independent Online

Hospitals will be forced to report all firearms injuries treated in accident and emergency wards, under plans drawn up by police chiefs.

Hospitals will be forced to report all firearms injuries treated in accident and emergency wards, under plans drawn up by police chiefs.

The programme is being devised amid growing concern over gun crime and fears that police are unaware of the full scale of the problem. Some medical experts believe a number of gun victims, particularly those involved in gang violence, avoid involving the police.

In a recent case in Birmingham, a hospital failed to notify the police about a gun victim and even gave the patient the bullet they dug out of his body – evidence that would normally be crucial in an investigation.

If hospitals refuse to take part in a voluntary scheme, chief constables may ask the Home Secretary to introduce a law to force them to provide details of all gun injuries.

The programme could provoke opposition from doctors who believe patients have a right to confidentiality.

The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) is working on plans with staff from the Violence Research Group at the University of Wales in Cardiff.

Details of the programme emerged as 8,000 people gathered at the Villa Park football ground in Birmingham, where the singers Ms Dynamite and Beverley Knight led protests at rising gun crime after the fatal shootings of two teenage girls.

Research carried out in Atlanta in the United States found that 17 per cent of people who were treated in hospital for gunshot wounds did not show up in any police records.

Jonathan Shepherd, of the Violence Research Group, said doctors in casualty units were currently "given discretion" on whether to notify police of an incident. "There are no regulations at the present time and there is the potential for gun crime incidents to slip through the net," he said. The reporting plans would help police arrest gangsters. "It would provide one more window for police to investigate gun crime and catch offenders," said Dr Shepherd, a member of the Government's Firearms Consultative Committee.