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Friday, 2 August, 2002, 13:14 GMT 14:14 UK
Toy gun children arrested in street
Real, replica, and toy pistols
From top down: A toy, replica and real pistol
Three 12-year-old children were arrested by five police officers who then fingerprinted them and took DNA samples, after the youngsters were seen playing with a toy gun.

Northumbria Police said new government guidelines on recording crime brought in on 1 April forced officers to take a strict line on weapons incidents.

They said highly realistic mock firearms now made it harder for officers to tell whether the gun was genuine or not.

But the father of a young girl who was arrested following the incident in Ashington, Northumberland, said: "It was handled all wrong and was very traumatic for her."


If I put our authorised firearms on the desk with those pistols you cannot tell the difference

Chief Inspector Graham Davis, Northumbria Police

The children, one girl and two boys, were playing a James Bond game on a Sega Megadrive games console before they decided to act out the game near their homes.

Officers treated the incident as a public order offence, but the girl's parents called the police approach "heavy-handed".

The girl's father said: "All they were doing was playing a cops and robbers-type game like people have done for years.

"It was handled all wrong and was very traumatic for her.

'Black mark'

"She is not a streetwise kid and at the end of the day she was only playing a game on the street.

"Now she's got a black mark on her record and her details are on file for ever.

"If the authorities are so concerned about it why don't they stop people selling the guns in the first place? What do they expect kids to do with them but run around playing with them in the street?"

Northumbria Police logo
Police say toy and real guns look similar

The youngsters were reprimanded by a senior officer, which will stay on their record for a three-year period, but their DNA and fingerprints will stay on file for life.

Police were called to deal with the youngsters as they played in the back streets near Woodhorn Road in Ashington, Northumberland on 19 July.

The girl was told to lay down the weapon - a black plastic gun bought for 3 at the town market - before being taken to Bedlington Police Station.

The girl's mother claimed her daughter was locked in a cell until her parents arrived.

Chief Inspector Graham Davis of Bedlington Police said two officers in a patrol car had seen a boy with a pistol chasing a girl.

Trading standards

Two elderly pensioners looked on in horror, he said. The officers called for back-up before confronting the children.

Northumbria Police are now contacting trading standards about the availability of imitation firearms.

Mr Davis said if it was an offence for a youngster to be brandishing a toy gun on the street then it should also be an offence for retailers to sell them.

He said: "I have seen them selling them on the streets of Sunderland for 3 each.

"Our firearms officers carry pistols. If I put our authorised firearms on the desk with those pistols you cannot tell the difference."


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See also:

03 Oct 01 | Wales
31 Jul 01 | UK
05 Jul 01 | UK
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