Thursday 10 October 2002

10-Oct-02 - Seven-year delay comes under fire

UK guns database delayed again

Seven-year delay comes under fire
Emma Nash, Computing 10 Oct 2002

The introduction of a national firearms database has been delayed again.

The central gun register will not be active until at least 2004, seven years after it was first proposed.

Development was due to begin last month, having already been held up since the database was recommended in the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997. But's sister title Computing has learned that the project has stalled.

"The initial procurement exercise has not been successful," said a Home Office spokeswoman. "Because of that, some slippage has been inevitable."

The National Firearms Certificate Holders Register database will be held centrally on the Police National Computer, replacing local forces' existing systems.

It will allow police across England and Wales to view information about licensed rifle and shotgun owners across the country.

The Police IT Organisation (Pito) re-tendered the contract this week. The project is now expected to start on 1 April 2003, and go live in April 2004.

"An original tender to provide interfaces between forces' firearms systems did not provide a satisfactory solution for the police service," said a Pito spokesman.

"It was decided that a fresh approach was needed to produce a more advanced technical solution while testing value for money."

Opposition MPs have suggested that the government is not taking crime seriously enough.

"This is yet another example of the government failing to deliver on promises," said James Paice, Conservative front bench spokesman for home affairs. "One has to wonder just how much of a priority it is for them."

The Association of Chief Police Officers first suggested a guns database in 1996. "A central firearms register would bring clear benefits in crime detection and prevention," it said at the time.

Thursday 30 May 2002

30-May-02 - Whitehall pilots firearms register

Whitehall pilots firearms register

Database was recommended five years ago
Emma Nash, Computing 30 May 2002

The government is to start developing a national firearms database in September - five years after the legislation that recommended its introduction.

Home Office Minister Lord Rooker last week said that a pilot gun register will start this year with a full roll-out anticipated in May 2003.

The database was first proposed in the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997, which was passed following the Dunblane massacre in March 1996 when 16 school children and their teacher were killed.

The Act did not specify timescales for the register, but a series of government targets have been missed.

The government claims it is committed to the register but says it had to establish more urgent projects such as the sex offenders register.

'The time-scale for delivery has been affected by the need to complete the national DNA database and to upgrade the police national computer,' Lord Rooker told the House of Lords.

But some are dismayed by the delays.

'This is something that has been going on and on,' said Lord Marlesford, former Conservative MP for Birmingham Erdington. 'The Home Office doesn't wish to do this because they didn't think of it.'

Crimes involving firearms are rising. According to Home Office figures, in 2000/2001 there were 7,362 recorded crimes in which firearms other than air weapons were used - an eight per cent rise on the previous year, which was 31 per cent up on the year before that.

Some 8.6 per cent of murders committed in 2000/2001 involved firearms, and the number of robberies involving a gun increased four per cent between 1999 and 2001.

The Association of Chief Police Officers' recommended a national guns database in 1996.

'A central firearms register would bring clear benefits in crime detection and prevention,' it said at the time.