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EDITIONS
 Breakfast with Frost
Chief Constable of the West Midlands, Paul Scott-Lee
Chief Constable of the West Midlands, Paul Scott-Lee
BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST INTERVIEW:
PAUL SCOTT-LEE,
CHIEF CONSTABLE, WEST MIDLANDS POLICE
JANUARY 5TH, 2003

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used

DAVID FROST:
And now we turn to that sad subject of the shooting incident in Aston which left two young black girls dead, others severely injured, and it's created widespread alarm. The Home Secretary has appealed for witnesses to come forward, says he's convening a meeting that was, I think going to take place anyway but now it's going to be focused on this, this week to consider what could be done about the increase in guns. According to the Mail on Sunday, gun crimes have doubled in the last five years, so how prevalent is the gun culture? Could new legislation help the police crack down on the youths who carry hand guns or machine pistols as a matter of course? And are the police in Birmingham any closer to finding precisely how the girls died or who killed them? Joining us is the Chief Constable of the West Midlands, the man in the centre of this situation, Paul Scott-Lee. Chief Constable, thank you for joining us.

PAUL SCOTT-LEE:
Good morning, no it's a pleasure to be here on this tragic day really.

DAVID FROST:
Yes, and what is the latest situation - we've had David Blunkett's plea and your plea for people to come forward, is there anything new, positive, to report this morning.

PAUL SCOTT-LEE:
Well the good news is people are coming forward. There are still others that we would want to speak to, particularly those who were at the party, who are yet to come forward, but the reassuring thing in the last 24 hours there has been an increase in the number of people contacting us - which is very, very positive.

DAVID FROST:
And in fact, one of the things David Blunkett said was it is difficult to get the community involved, particularly in this case of black on black crime, as he calls it, it's more difficult to break through to get these people to respond.

PAUL SCOTT-LEE:
I think what we've got to recognise here, though, is we've had two deaths and two other young women tragically shot. This isn't a gangland killing, these are members of the public - young people - who've been shot down while they were at a party just enjoying themselves. So I think that the community's response will be positive because this is not a gangland member shooting another gangland member.

DAVID FROST:
Do we have an increasing gun culture, in fact, in this country? Everybody seems to think so. And are your figures in the West Midlands similar to the ones in the Mail on Sunday, that there's been almost a doubling of gun offences in the last five years?

PAUL SCOTT-LEE:
Certainly if you go back only ten or 15 years, weapons of any sort were a rarity and what firearms were about were probably sawn-off shotguns in the hands of very few hardened criminals. In the world that we're living in today, it is a fact that it's almost become, as somebody said, a fashion accessory - not just having the weapons but carrying them so they can be seen, and that is worrying and it's particularly worrying when you think that young people are out on our streets in every city in the country carrying weapons.

DAVID FROST:
And in fact, in terms of these weapons and so on, do you think that there is a case for the mandatory five year sentence for people carrying guns?

PAUL SCOTT-LEE:
I think there is a case, for two reasons really. Firstly, there is a tendency at the moment to concentrate on weapons when they've been used, and to me that's far too late. To wait to talk about it as a serious matter when the guns have been used is really shutting the door after the horse has bolted. And secondly, I think we need to send a clear message that there is no place for guns on our streets and one of the best ways of getting a consistent message across the country is to have something like a mandatory sentence. And if we look what happened in New York, that seems to have had a significant effect.

DAVID FROST:
Do we also need a ban on replica guns and greater protection for witnesses?

PAUL SCOTT-LEE:
I think there are two other issues of legislation that I would look to. Certainly some replica guns are very easily converted to fire live ammunition. We know which guns they are and it would take legislation just to make them unlawful - and that could be done relatively quickly. And secondly, carrying even air weapons in a public place is unnecessary and we could legislate for that in a similar way. So I think that the legislation could make the streets safer. In terms of witnesses, perhaps one of the things we need to do is to make it clearer to the public that there are some very good protection that we can offer. We can protect witnesses, we can protect their names, they can give evidence from behind screens so they're not identified, in worst case scenarios we can give them new identities. I think perhaps we've not been as good as we should have been at conveying that to potential witnesses.

DAVID FROST:
And what about the thing that shocked a lot of people, maybe it didn't shock you or maybe it did surprise you, this reference to a sub machine gun? It sounds horrific on our streets but are you used to that or did it shock you?

PAUL SCOTT-LEE:
Unfortunately it didn't shock us because we've seen in Birmingham, as in all of the other big cities, that the weapons of choice of these criminals are getting more sophisticated. The Uzi submachine gun and other automatic weapons are now relatively commonplace, and that gives an indication of the seriousness of the situation we're dealing with.

DAVID FROST:
And is there a problem that can be solved here in how these guns are coming in - we see references to the Balkans and so on - can these things be controlled? In fact is the situation at the moment, before these things that you very clearly advocated this morning, was it spiralling out of control?

PAUL SCOTT-LEE:
I think the way I would describe it is we've got some individuals who are out of control. Gun crime isn't out of control, it's individuals who have access to guns. There will always be a difficulty in cutting off all weapons coming into the country, but if we can make it so that there is no market for it, that there is no reason for young people to be carrying them on the streets, then the market will dry up. It would be naive to think that we can stop all weapons coming into the country.

DAVID FROST:
And are you confident of finding the killers of the two girls?

PAUL SCOTT-LEE:
I'm very confident. If you look back at recent history, the last two or three years, we have a very good track record of working with the community - not only to identify those responsible for these sorts of heinous crimes, but also bringing them to justice. What I would say is, we will get there quicker if more people come forward and fill in the gaps in our information.

DAVID FROST:
Chief constable, thank you very much for joining us this morning.

INTERVIEW ENDS

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