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Last Updated: Friday, 3 February 2006, 16:50 GMT
Firearms use defended by police
Armed policeman
David Jones MP said the figures made "alarming reading"
The allegedly high level at which North Wales Police use firearms has been criticised by two MPs.

Official figures show armed officers in the area were deployed almost as often as the much larger South Wales Police.

Plaid Cymru MP Elfyn Llwyd and Conservative David Jones are claiming "misuse" of armed response units.

North Wales Police said firearm use was governed by guidelines after "intensive training," and safety was their top concern for both victims and offenders.

Home Office figures obtained by BBC Wales showed that North Wales Police authorised the use of firearms in 981 operations during the four years up to 2005. That compared with South Wales Police sanctioning 1,050.

We're told day after day that violent crime is decreasing in north Wales but armed response is on an upward trend
Elfyn Llwyd MP

In the same four-year period, there were 796 operations in the North Wales Police area which involved armed response vehicles - only one fewer than in its southern counterpart's area.

In 2004-2005 there were more incidents involving armed response vehicles in the northern force than there were in the South Wales Police area: 180 compared to 165.

North Wales Police is the smaller of the two forces with 1,680 officers compared to 3,200 in south Wales.

Mr Llwyd, Plaid Cymru's parliamentary spokesperson on home affairs and the MP for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy, said the figures revealed "a misuse of armed response officers in north Wales."

He added: "We're told day after day that violent crime is decreasing in north Wales, but armed response is on an upward trend.

Police incident in north Wales
Elfyn Llwyd said armed response was on an upward trend

"I can't match both sets of figures and come to a reasonable conclusion other than there is a misuse of the armed response unit."

David Jones, Conservative MP for Clwyd West, said the figures made "alarming reading" and he would be seeking "urgent answers" from North Wales Police chief constable Richard Brunstrom.

"Anyone must be concerned at the use of guns by police in north Wales," Mr Jones said.

It is imperative that firearms can be deployed rapidly to deal with serious incidents but these occasions are properly governed by national guidelines and intensive training
North Wales Police

"When you compare the figures with south Wales, they are very little apart.

"But the level of population in the South Wales Police area is significantly higher.

"One really must wonder why there is such a heavy use of armed response," added the MP.

Taser stun gun

In a statement, the force said: "The conflict management vehicles operated by North Wales Police are equipped with a range of tactical options ranging from batons and pepper spray to taser and firearms.

"Officers are trained to use the minimum force required to deal with violent situations and often this simply amounts to verbal powers of persuasion and diplomacy.

"It is imperative, in this day and age, that firearms can be deployed rapidly to deal with serious incidents but these occasions are properly governed by national guidelines and intensive training.

"Any Member of Parliament with concerns is very welcome to visit us to learn more about how we train and deploy these specialist officers.

"Public safety is our first concern and this includes both victims and offenders."




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