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back to article Yorkshire plods LOSE 9,000 GUNS in rogue BOFH database blunder

Bungling police staff at South Yorkshire Police have finally copped to a huge snafu in their firearms database after spending the last two months writing to thousands of firearms licence holders. The letter simply requested they "update their details". Bosses have blamed the database snafu on the actions of a sacked …

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“We are in a situation not of our making,” said Chf Supt Odell

I beg to differ ....

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Re: “We are in a situation not of our making,” said Chf Supt Odell

Well they fired the one with glasses who could read.

Since then they have tried kicking, punching, truncheoning and even dropping the machine down the stairs but can't get it to say anything.

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Childcatcher

...Going 100 rounds over that allocation is comparable to stopping in a yellow box zone at a junction; yes, it’s illegal, but the harm is negligible....

You appear to be living in the 1950s, when a policeman on the ground was actually interested in maintaining law and order in his local area, and might interpret the law according to an outdated set of standards derived from the Empire, of upright dealing and fair play.

Dixon died in the 1970s. Now we are ruled by a bureaucratic set of thought police, whose primary aims are, in order:

1 - avoiding doing any real work

2 - covering up any mistakes they make, up to and including causing deaths

3 - arresting innocent people when the press pressure them to do so

4 - vindictively attacking anyone who exposes any of this....

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You forgot one:

Looking the other way when their press/politico mates ask them to.

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Unhappy

10 *years* to get a national firearms register, a fair chunk of whose data they already had.

Funny they did not throw the book at her. She is after all a)A woman, b)Not able to give the Masonic high five and c)They are the South Yorkshire Police.

But you'd trust them with being able to get a complete dump of all your phone, text, IM and email traffic, right?

Well you'd better, cause they want it.

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Re: 10 *years* to get a national firearms register, a fair chunk of whose data they already had.

If for any reason the police show an interest in my car, within a very short time over the radio they can find out my name, address, if the car has insurance and if it has an MoT certificate. Perhaps the development of that computer system didn't involve any police authority imput.

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Re: 10 *years* to get a national firearms register, a fair chunk of whose data they already had.

Last time I checked, the DVLA's database was officially about 80% accurate, therefore unofficially even worse.

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Re: 10 *years* to get a national firearms register, a fair chunk of whose data they already had.

It's that classic fault that all databases have, in fact all aspects of computing have: The users.

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Anonymous Coward

Oh the joy

So after making people jump through hoops to comply with the law there are the enforcers who cant be bothered to update their information. One of my shooting friends (years ago) had an issue when police pulled him over routinely only to panic and have no idea what to do. Apparently they didnt know it was ok for him to have his legally owned guns in the car as he was travelling back from the range.

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When you think about it, gun crime has risen dramatically in the years since Dunblane. All the gun control has absolutely no effect on the criminals who want to get hold of a weapon.

I would be curious to know the percentage of gun crimes that are committed with a registered weapon.

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That increase in gun crime.

The figures are quite interesting. It surged in the years following the ban, but then did decrease again a bit. There was a quite thorough academic study which concluded that the ban and its enforcement have had absolutely no effect on rates of gun crime -- debunking the claims of the supporters of the ban but also of people (like me, I admit) who thought the ban had increased gun crime rates.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @russel 6

"When you think about it, gun crime has risen dramatically in the years since Dunblane."

Erm, no.

At a push you claim that the initial enforcement made a spike in the overall crime stats (as a new crime had been invented) but there was no increase in violent crime involving firearms.

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WTF?

"there was no increase in violent crime involving firearms."

Oh, come on. The stats are easy enough to look up. It took about ten years for the gun crime rate to drop back down to pre-Dunblane levels.

Criminologists who know a lot more about these things than I do have ascribed the increase to other unrelated factors, but no-one with a clue claims it never happened.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "there was no increase in violent crime involving firearms."

Re @squander two

Still, no.

The stats are easy to look up and they show no spike in violent crime involving firearms between the 1996 Dunblane murders and ten years later. This is true in both the Home Office figures and the British Crime Survey stats.

It is a myth largely concocted (although not entirely) by US opponents of gun control law and then repeated at semi random individuals.

The Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997 (and the No 2 act Labour introduced) made possession of lots of types of weapon illegal. This did lead to rise in the number of people arrested for possession of an illegal firearm (obviously....) but not the claimed rise in shootings.

Interestingly, most research shows violent crime with or without weapons peaked in 1995 then declined steadily (except for a minor upturn in 2006).

If we just look at homicide there is a steady increase from 1993 to 2001 then it hovers before coming down to current levels.

There are lots and lots of criminologists who say there was no spike because of the 1997 Amendment Act. Few say there was one and even less can see any evidence of it.

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Anonymous Coward

Gun Control Doesn't Work Say NRA

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9pOiOhxujsE&list=PLoO6eym0L0F3mJ7qk4ogi8loeiMH8Osrj

All I can say is well done Australia

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Re: "there was no increase in violent crime involving firearms."

The stats I've seen suggest there WAS a not insignificant rise in crime involving firearms post the 1997 act - but it's spurious to suggest there was any connection whatsoever.

Handgun owners were extremely law-abiding individuals and compliance with the confiscation was virtually 100%

What happened was that criminals did what criminals always do; they did illegal things with illegal black-market guns. They just did it *more* - for reasons entirely unrelated to Dunblane or the 1997 act.

Americans do sometimes cite this in gun control debates but they often get it wrong; they think there was cause and effect when there was NOT. They don't appreciate that there was no history in living memory of using handguns in self-defence in the UK.

(As for the 1997 act, prime example of an appalling knee-jerk emotion-led piece of legislation; how in hell does it serve anyone to make the bloody Olympic shooting team train overseas?! Disgraceful)

Mike - ex-Brit, now American, gun owner :-)

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As I recall, ACPO admitted during the Cullen Enquiry (post Dunblane) that less than 1% of firearms crime was committed with firearms that had EVER been registered (an important distinction as that includes stolen guns that are then used in the commission of further crimes, not just legally held guns wielded by their owners).

As a shooter, I believe firearms control has a place - there should be a sensible effort to obstruct access to firearms by criminals or nutters. However, given the prevalence of black market guns, making life excessively complex for legal owners is pointless - once you implement a few common sense licensing rules you get in to rapidly diminishing returns which means at that stage you're better off putting your efforts and budget into guns & gangs (Trident-like projects) and dealing with illegal guns that have never been legal nor so much as touched the white market rather than layering on more paperwork for legal users.

It's no surprise that the rates of gun crime in the UK bear no resemblance to the introduction of firearms legislation (gun crime soared between 1007 and 2004 despite banning handguns). What's more notable is that Trafalgar and Trident really started making inroads around 2004-05 when they got tough on the actual problem of black market guns being smuggled in to the country or just illicitly made here (anyone with a lathe in their shed could make a gun if they wanted to).

We're too strict, 'Merika is too lax. Isle of Man have a pretty good balance.

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Re: "there was no increase in violent crime involving firearms."

"The stats are easy to look up and they show no spike in violent crime involving firearms between the 1996 Dunblane murders and ten years later. This is true in both the Home Office figures and the British Crime Survey stats."

Not really, HO figures (www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/sn01940.pdf‎) show that:

1997/98 - 12805 notifiable firearms offences, including 696 "serious" offences

2004/05 - 24094 notifiable firearms offences, including 1350 "serious" offences

after which firearms offences started dropping, finally getting to sub-1997 rates in 2010/11. It is notable that Operation Trafalgar was expanded into Trident around 2004-05, but there was no firearms legislation of any note, and with the bulk of UK firearms crime taking place in London, the West Midlands and Greater Manchester, it's no surprise that downturns in these types of crime tend to show up 12-18 months after the implementation of various initiatives in those Police areas which have done more to address firearms crime than layering additional paperwork on farmers and sport shooters and putting gunsmiths out of business.

So no, the ban did not "cause" gun crime (I honestly don't understand how people ever came to that conclusion), but it did precisely nothing to stop it or address the rise in firearms crime. It is also notable that in the period above (1997-2005), crime involving handguns specifically rose from 2636/yr to 5144 before tailing off in 2005 and falling to 3105 for 2011, which shows how much impact the law had on removing handguns form the black market.

Both firearms offences and violence went up after Dunblane. The laws did nothing. What worked was the Police actually enforcing the laws, rather than politicians throwing legislation at the problem and making illegal things more illegal.

Your theory that the creation of a new crime got lots of people arrested for possession of illegal firearms is woefully misguided. Pretty much everyone handed their guns in and took their compensation money (or shipped the guns abroad). There were no hold outs. Why? Because we have licensing - i.e. the Police had a list of everyone who had a licensed pistol, so if you didn't surrender it they could come around and take it when the hand-in period ended.

It's the reason why the pistol ban worked but an airgun ban wouldn't - because the Police have no idea who owns the estimated 10million air guns that are swilling around the UK (bar a handful that have been legally overpowered for niche hunting requirements and therefore licensed). Short of going house-to-house for every UK residence, a hand-in would rely on the owners to be honest enough to hand them in, which means the people doing the handing in are precisely the responsible and law-abiding types that you don't mind owning guns in the first place.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "there was no increase in violent crime involving firearms."

If I remember, a taser became a firearm so loads of people arrested with them.

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Re: "there was no increase in violent crime involving firearms."

One massive increase in "firearms incidents" consisted of classifying a £1 BB gun bought off the market as a "Realistic Imitation Firearm" if it's not made with 50% of the body in florescent green under the Violent Crime Reduction Act.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "there was no increase in violent crime involving firearms."

British crime survey on violent crime (as that is what the topic is about, not incidents like possession of a firearm, which is included as a notifiable offence) available at: http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/crime-stats/crime-statistics/period-ending-december-2012/stb-crime-in-england-and-wales--year-ending-december-2012.html#tab-Violence shows over 4500 offences in 1995 dropping to about 3500 offences in 1997 then down to about 3400 by 1999.

Using the HO Briefing paper linked to, Chart 1 shows approximately 15000 offences involving a firearm in 1996 dropping to about 13000 in 1997, with a slight increase to 14000 in 1998 then a steady rise until 2003.

From that source there were more offences in 1992 / 1993 than in 1997/1998.

I am still at loss as to how this shows that the Firearms (Amendment) Acts 1 & 2 of 1997 led to a significant increase in (implied violent) gun crime.

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“We are in a situation not of our making,” said Chf Supt Odell.

Well, that's an interesting new bit of spin. "Our employee screwed up, but then we sacked her, so the fact that she's not part of our organisation now means the screw-up was nothing to do with our organisation back when she still worked for us."

I expect this will catch on.

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Unhappy

Re: “We are in a situation not of our making,” said Chf Supt Odell.

"Well, that's an interesting new bit of spin. "Our employee screwed up, but then we sacked her, so the fact that she's not part of our organisation now means the screw-up was nothing to do with our organisation back when she still worked for us.""

Indeed. The cutting edge of blame avoidance of management technology.

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Re: “We are in a situation not of our making,” said Chf Supt Odell.

They should have thought of it back when they shot De Menezes. They could have sacked the officers responsible and then claimed that the guys who shot him weren't even with the police.

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Unhappy

Re: “We are in a situation not of our making,” said Chf Supt Odell.

"They could have sacked the officers responsible "

Why? The armed thugs still don't think they did anything wrong. Hence the police investigations into journalists asking awkward questions about the de Menezes murder, the "non-inquest" that wouldn't consider a verdict of "unlawfully killed", the undisclosed payoff by the filth to the de Menezes family,

Given the parlous state of the Met revealed by Leveson, and by the whole long, sad Stephen Lawrence saga, why would we expect anything else?

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Daft thing is ...

I know of several folks who have "unauthorized" firearms in Yorkshire ... Nearly all hand-me-downs from Dad/Grandad. Given that I'm a Californian and hardly know even a small percentage of Yorkshiremen, there is quite probably a sizable population of un-announced gun owners in Yorkshire.

And get this ... The only crime they are committing is not telling Plod they have Grandpa's Beretta!

Creating a new class of non-violent criminal doesn't get rid of violent crime. All it does is tie up the police chasing ghosts, and sells more tabloids ... Oh. Wait.

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What's the status of Plod's database of arses and elbows? Have they recognised the difference yet?

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Pork.

Maybe they need a national arse/elbow database?

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Thumb Down

Useless register to keep old ladies safey-feely goes AWOL, care-o-meter at 0.

So what.

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Unhappy

Actually there *is* a use for this register.

Previously IE for the 10 years after Dunblaine if you were refused a gun license by one force you could apply to others around you and they could not check if you had done so and might give it to you.

I think you could have got multiple licenses to hold different weapons as well.

IOW the usual games you can play with multiple paper databases held by different organisations.

It's a good idea. Should it have taken Dunblaine and 10 years to get it. No. Did the UK need even stricter gun control laws. No. Let's say I smell something funny about the local cops involvement with Thomas Hamilton. Predatory paedophile wakes up one morning and decides to attack a primary school. No one putting him under pressure, he just does.

Yeah right.

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Re: Actually there *is* a use for this register.

You are certainly correct to distrust the Dunblane goings on.

The official report has a 100 year non-disclosure notice on it. What on earth can be so sensitive to require 2 generations to die before it's revealed.

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: Re: Actually there *is* a use for this register.

I often wonder what would happen if the Cullen report was made public now. Sadly it's too obscure for Anonymous and the like to bother ferretting it out.

I strongly suspect the public outcry would lead to some very reluctantly brought criminal charges.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Actually there *is* a use for this register.

I agree, gun licensing, national database of gun ownership, real checks before letting someone own a gun, these are very good things...BUT banning handguns, that does nothing...

As long as anyone with a weapon has had a proper psychological evaluation, then there is no real risk to the public.. I would even go so far as to say that anyone who wants to own a firearm should complete a mandatory training course and pass to prove they are safe...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Actually there *is* a use for this register.

When you say the Cullen report, do you mean this one?

http://www.archive.official-documents.co.uk/document/scottish/dunblane/dunblane.htm

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Re: Actually there *is* a use for this register.

My distrust of the police, both as dodgy individuals and as an incompetent organisation, makes me think giving them details of where every legal firearm in the UK is is asking for trouble. I see in the news only yesterday a house near me in Essex was burgled and its gun safe stolen. The less people who know you have guns in the house, the better.

The same goes for owning certain valuables, eg gold.

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Re: Re: Actually there *is* a use for this register.

Was thinking more of the background report into Thomas Hamilton which was suppressed, allegedly because it might incriminate various plods and politicians.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1421898/Dunblane-100-year-ban-on-report-may-be-lifted.html refers. Obviously not the actual Cullen report - I'd forgotten that was quietly released to the public.

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Alert

Re: Actually there *is* a use for this register.

Around the time that I got my FAC there was a comment from some cop that they don't use psych evaluations 'cos they're useless* for predicting how dangerous someone might be in the future. They do ask your chums (you have to have 2 character references for you application and 5-yearly renewal) if your relationship with your spouse is on the rocks as shooting your wife seems to be the most common misuse of legal firearms.

*so the cops believed

Personally, I have previous for being a depressed teenager (as in actually getting sent to a therapist on the NHS) but I was ok by the time I got a FAC so they only really look into your present mental health. Considering that my FAC is for a Brocock air pistol (the ones they banned 'cos you can convert them to fire live ammo if you don't mind a fair to middling chance of losing some fingers) they seemed unconcerned by the outside chance of me beating myself to death with it.

Mandatory firearms safety courses sounds like a good idea. The process for joining a shooting club (and getting a FAC by that route) is quite onerous so I guess they trust that all the training is taken care of by the club.

I think banning handguns (it's actually the 12/24 rule; no barrels of less than 12" and the whole gun, in a condition where it can be fired, must be more than 24") was driven by the rozzers. Nowadays, if they see someone with a pistol they don't have to worry about whether it's a legal one or not, they can just open fire.

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Re: Actually there *is* a use for this register.

You're think of chair legs

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Unhappy

Re: Actually there *is* a use for this register.

"I often wonder what would happen if the Cullen report was made public now. Sadly it's too obscure for Anonymous and the like to bother ferretting it out."

100 Years.

I smell a very large cowpat indeed under this skin.

I maybe being paranoid but my instinct is Hamilton was known quite well to the McPlod in the area and you can imagine them seething at their inability to actually arrest him on anything substantial .

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Actually there *is* a use for this register.

Don tinfoil hat and start reading

http://the-tap.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/questions-surrounding-dunblane-massacre.html

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"abysmal record when it comes to firearms licensing"

Our NRA appears to be the opposite of the USA's NRA, doesn't it?

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Coat

Re: "abysmal record when it comes to firearms licensing"

In the UK, NRA also stand for the National Rounders Association, the governing body for the girls' game Rounders.

Though I suspect that wasn't the usage that you're referring to.

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Coat

NSSOCA

NSSOCA, the Not So Serious nor Organised Crime Agency responded with a resounding 'meh', as they continued documenting the illegal butterfly migrations.

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Anonymous Coward

Blame database snafu on sacked administrator?

"Bosses have blamed the database snafu on the actions of a sacked administrator."

I don't believe it !

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Re: Blame database snafu on sacked administrator?

And our wonderful press won't ask why the hell an administrator was able to do this. Clearly there *is* (not was) a culture of amateurness in Yorkshire Police (which is the REAL story). So where else is it prevalent ?

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: Re: Blame database snafu on sacked administrator?

What's to ask? She was a back office admin in the firearms licensing department charged with updating the NFLMS with information sent in by FAC and SGC holders. She either didn't update them at all or only partially entered new info. Her primary role involved sustained periods of data entry, and she was (presumably) vetted and cleared for this level of access. Not seeing your point here?

Bearing in mind firearms licensing is not a priority for any UK force - Lincs actually outsourced it to G4S, of all people.

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@gazthejourno

My point is that there was (and I will stake a tenner I could use the word "is") no effective oversight. Who was managing her ? How was her performance being monitored ?

Having employees with the degree of autonomy required to cause this clusterfuck is acceptable (and probably inevitable) in small man+dog outfits. But in a public service ?

So, my question stands. What *other* unsupervised employees are there in Yorkshire police ?

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Anonymous Coward

Northern Pride

In the 60s/70s it used to be that if you wanted world class corrupt, thuggish, incompetent police you had to go to London.

But since the miners strike, Hillsborough and so on there has been a real renaissance in the quality of northern gestapo and now - except in the matter of talking to journalists - S Yorks police can hold their head up with the best of S America's finest. It makes you proud to be from Sheffield.

(as soon as they find somebody else who can read and discover that the newspapers aren't just for wrapping chips - they will start leaking to journalists.)

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Joke

Re: Northern Pride

"But since the miners strike, Hillsborough and so on there has been a real renaissance in the quality of northern gestapo and now - except in the matter of talking to journalists - S Yorks police can hold their head up with the best of S America's finest. It makes you proud to be from Sheffield."

They not the originators of the legendary gag that goes.

Cop. If someone kicked in your front door, beat up your kids and raped your wife who you gonna call?

Miner. Not the S. Yorks police for sure, they're already round my house.

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