Select Committee on Home Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Metropolitan Police Service

  Thank you for your letter of 18 May addressed to the Commissioner concerning illegally held firearms. Your comments have been noted and the letter passed to me for a response.

  All police forces, and the Metropolitan Police in particular are anxious to reduce the number of illegally held firearms on the streets of this country. Part of the strategy revolves around an intelligence-led approach, encouraging members of the public, and the criminal fraternity within it, to come forward with information to enable us to seize weapons and take them out of circulation. This strategy, combined with other strands such as general amnesties and education, has been very successful. I note that the information in respect of the Sunday Times is now within our intelligence database.

  Such strategies require the co-operation of all concerned. For their own professional reasons, journalists are notoriously reluctant to reveal their sources. This is so even if the public interest and safety factors are present, such as in the case you describe. If challenged through the courts, most would be prepared to go to prison rather than identify any individual concerned. I suspect therefore that public opinion, rather than police resorting to the law, would be a more powerful weapon in persuading newspapers to assist police in cases such as these.

  Thank you for taking the time and trouble to write.

John Yates

Detective Chief Superintendent

Staff Officer to the Commissioner

26 May 1999

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