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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 July 2006, 21:06 GMT 22:06 UK
Policeman named bravest in region
Chief Constable Joe Edwards and Pc Ian Potter
Sussex Chief Constable Joe Edwards congratulates Pc Ian Potter
A policeman who risked his life to talk a man doused in petrol out of setting himself alight has been named the bravest officer in the South East.

Pc Paul Howe, from Kent Police, was standing in a puddle of the petrol as he talked the suicidal man round.

He was one of two policemen from the region honoured at ceremony in London.

Firearms officer Pc Ian Potter, from Sussex Police, was shot at twice in 2003 by an escaped convict later jailed for life for firearms offences.

The Police Federation Bravery Awards, which paid tribute to 56 officers from England and Wales, were held on Thursday evening at the Dorchester Hotel.

High-powered pistol

Pc Howe tried to talk the man round after tracking him down to an isolated spot in Dover.

The man had doused himself and his car in petrol and had a box of matches ready to set himself alight before trying to grab a cigarette lighter.

There was a struggle when Pc Howe sprayed him with CS gas but the officer managed to hold on to the man until colleagues arrived and dragged them both clear.

Horsham-based Pc Potter was one of a number of officers who attended a shooting incident at St Peter's Church, Brighton.

An escaped prisoner, who told police he had a high-powered pistol with 175 rounds of ammunition, fired at least 17 times before he was talked down from scaffolding around the church.

Pc Potter, a former Grenadier guardsman, returned fire with one shot, which was later found to have hit the offender and lodged in his buttock.

"He deserves the highest praise and we are immensely proud of him, as we are of all our firearms officers," said Sussex Police Federation chairman Brian Stockham.

Before the ceremony the officers met Prime Minister Tony Blair and Home Secretary John Reid at a Downing Street reception.

The overall winner was Pc Sarah Hobson, formerly of West Midlands Police and now serving in Devon and Cornwall, who was named Britain's bravest bobby.

Unarmed Pc Hobson single-handedly captured two men in the process of raiding a Wolverhampton nightclub as staff enjoyed an after-hours drink.

She tackled and arrested the two armed raiders in a narrow alleyway from which there was no escape after a fire door slammed shut.

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