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 Monday, 6 January, 2003, 06:34 GMT
Gun law shake-up plans due
From left: Cheryl Shaw, Charlene Ellis, Sophie Ellis and Latisha Shakespeare
This photo was taken of the four girls before the party
Changes to gun laws are due to be unveiled by Home Secretary David Blunkett as police continue hunting for the killers of two teenage girls shot dead at a party.

A minimum five-year sentence for carrying illegal firearms is planned, Mr Blunkett will announce on Monday.

Guns haul
Police will welcome changes to gun laws
Later in the week the home secretary is to host a summit on tackling gun crime, which figures due out on Thursday are expected to show has risen sharply.

Meanwhile West Midlands Police say they are confident the murderers of the teenagers killed in Birmingham will be caught with the public's help.

Charlene Ellis, 18, and her 17-year-old cousin Latisha Shakespeare died in a hail of bullets outside a hairdressers where a party was being held in Aston on Thursday.

Charlene's twin sister, Sophie is still under armed guard in hospital.

Their cousin Cheryl Shaw, 17, was treated for a hand wound.

A memorial service for the victims will be held on Monday at a church near the scene of the fatal shootings.

Friends of the two girls who died will attend Holy Trinity Church, where on Sunday a packed congregation attended a service dedicated to the girls and signed a condolence book.

Replica gun reforms

The government will announce on Monday that minimum sentences for people caught carrying illegal firearms will be laid down in changes to the Criminal Justice Bill.

The government is also considering a ban on replica guns, particularly those that could be adapted to fire live rounds, said the Home Office.

But it refused to give details on gun crime statistics due to be revealed on Thursday.

It is expected the figures will show a 20% increase in firearm offences in England and Wales.

Tory criticism

Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith said his party would look closely at plans to reform gun crime sentencing.

But he accused the government of not dealing with the causes of crime.

He told BBC Radio 4's The Westminster Hour: "The government has done nothing to bring about a greater level of rehabilitation for young offenders such as we've seen in other countries".

The gun crime summit at the Home Office later in the week will include police chiefs, community representatives from across the country, customs and immigration officials, and the Crown Prosecution Service.

Friday's discussions, planned for some time, will cover topics including the rise in small arms imports from the Balkans.

Community appeal

The summit comes as police continue to appeal for information about Thursday's shooting.

West Midlands Police chief constable Paul Scott-Lee said the public needed to help fill gaps in the investigation.

Canterbury Road police station: 0121 606 7881
Crimestoppers: 0800 555 111

Officers want to hear from the 100 people who attended Thursday's party.

Mr Scott Lee told BBC News: "I think the community's response will be positive because this is not a gangland member killing another gangland member," he said.

He said reaction to the shooting provided an opportunity to start putting an end to guns on the UK's streets.

  The BBC's Jonathan Beale
"Tony Blair is considering introducing a ban on replica firearms"
  John Denham, Home Office Minister
We will need to bring forward further measure on imitation and replica weapons"
  James Pace, Conservative Home Affairs spokesman
"We do need a much more thought out strategy to deal with guns"

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04 Jan 03 | England
03 Jan 03 | England
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