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Monday, 8 July, 2002, 11:19 GMT 12:19 UK
Shootings lead to airgun amnesties
Nicola Diston shortly after the attack
Nicola Diston lost the sight in her left eye
Two airgun amnesties are underway in areas of the North East which have experienced a high level of shootings over the past year.

The weapons' handover has been organised by the Northumbria and Cleveland forces, which have both experienced a number of high-profile incidents.

In November 2001 Tyneside teenager Nicola Diston lost an eye after being shot, and in early July 2002 a deaf-blind man on Teesside was shot in the stomach.

The police amnesties come after a recent delegation from Gateshead Council asked the government to tighten airgun laws.

Seabirds targeted

Northumbria Police wants anyone who has an airgun or pistol to put them in one of their bins before 18 July.

Secure bins will be placed in different parts of South Shields, Hebburn and Jarrow.

The amnesty is in response to the 1300 incidents the Northumbria force's armed response unit has attended in the last year, with 50% of these involving airguns or knives.

In the last year in South Tyneside the police have dealt with 35 air weapons cases.

A similar amnesty is being held in East Cleveland after gangs of youths were spotted taking potshots at animals and people.

A schoolboy was shot in the thigh, and rare seabrids and pets have also been targeted.

Hospital treatment

Now the Cleveland force has given people 12 days from 8 July to hand air rifles and pistols, as well as knives, in at police stations.

The recent Gateshead visit to Westminster was led by Labour MP Joyce Quinn, and was prompted after a teenager from the town was injured in a shooting incident last year.

Nicola Diston, then aged 15, lost her sight in one eye when she was shot by two teenagers in November 2001.

In early July 2002 a 45-year-old man, who was born deaf-blind and without speech, needed hospital treatment after being shot in Middlesbrough, Teesside.


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