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Sussex has one of highest numbers of legally owned guns

Sussex is one of the police forces with the highest number of firearms certificates in England and Wales, as the number of legally owned guns reaches its highest level for 20 years.

There were more than 1.3 million shotguns and and 525,125 other firearms covered by licences at the end of March. The combined total of 1,863,524 is the largest recorded since statistics were first collected in 1995.

There were 153,603 firearms certificates, which cover guns other than shotguns such as rifles, on issue earlier this year - the highest number since 1988. A certificate can cover several guns.

Police forces with the highest number of firearms certificates as of March 31 2015 were Devon and Cornwall, Sussex and West Mercia -10,855, 6,735 and 6,708 respectively.

A report published by the Home Office alongside the figures said the number of firearms fell from 418,300 to 295,000 between 1996 and 1998 as tighter controls were introduced in the wake of the Dunblane shootings.

Since 1998, there has been an upward trend.

30 firearms collected in Wiltshire Police campaign

Firearms collected in campaign Credit: Wiltshire Police

More than 30 firearms have been collected by Wiltshire Police so far during an on-going firearms surrender.

Items collected include five shotguns, two handguns, four air rifles, seven air pistols, three rifles, two ‘45 revolvers’ and one antique firearm. Ammunition has also been collected with some of the firearms.

The force is half way through a two week surrender, which runs until 9pm on Sunday 20 September, and is appealing for people to hand over unlicensed or unwanted firearms and ammunition.

Inspector Steve McGrath said: “At this mid way point we are pleased with the number of firearms that have been handed in so far. The reaction from several people has been one of relief to get rid of firearms as they have had them in attics for years and not known the best way to safely get rid of them.

“We have also been contacted by licensed firearms owners who no longer have a use for them.

“Wiltshire is a safe county in which to live and gun crime in the UK has continued to fall year on year for the last ten years. We are not complacent about gun crime however, which is why we are running this surrender as we want as many firearms as possible to be collected and removed from our communities.”

Thirty firearms surrendered to Wiltshire Police

A large collection of firearms has been surrendered Credit: ITV

More than 30 firearms have been surrendered to Wiltshire Police so far during an ongoing firearms surrender.

Items collected include five shotguns, two handguns, four air rifles, seven air pistols, three rifles, two ‘45 revolvers’ and one antique firearm. Ammunition has also been collected with some of the firearms.

The force is half way through a two week surrender, which runs until 9pm on Sunday 20 September, and is appealing for people to hand over unlicensed or unwanted firearms and ammunition.

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Police given more time to question suspects over importing firearms

Three men and a woman were arrested near Cuxton Marina Credit: ITV Meridian

Officers have been granted additional time to question eight people arrested in the Kent area as a result of a National Crime Agency investigation into the suspected importation of firearms.

The eight - seven men and a woman all aged between 24 and 58, were detained by the NCA’s Armed Operations Unit (AOU) and Kent Police Tactical Firearms Command yesterday afternoon.

Three men and a woman were arrested near Cuxton Marina, while three men were detained at a location in Orpington and one at an address in Swanley.

The man arrested in Swanley is being questioned by Kent Police, the other seven by the NCA.

A number of firearms and ammunition were seized near the marina. The investigation, which relates to the criminal use of firearms, continues.

Eight arrested in firearms investigation

Eight people have been arrested in the Kent area as part of a National Crime Agency investigation into the suspected importation of firearms.

The eight, seven men and a woman all aged between 24 and 58, were detained by officers from the NCA’s Armed Operations Unit and Kent Police on Tuesday afternoon.

Three men and a woman were arrested at Cuxton Marina, while three men were detained at a location in Orpington and one at an address in Swanley.

All eight are now being questioned by NCA investigators.

A number of potentially viable firearms and ammunition were seized near the marina. They are now being tested forensically.

The investigation, which relates to the criminal use of firearms, continues.

Convicted robber hid firearms in loft

Stephen Castle has been sentenced to eight years in prison Credit: Kent Police

A convicted armed robber who hid two sawn-off shotguns in his loft in Pembury has been jailed for nearly 8 years.

Stephen Castle had been banned for life from possessing any firearm following previous sentences for firearms offences.

Castle, aged 50, had been jailed for 10 years in 1997 for a robbery on a Tunbridge Wells jeweller. In 2007 he was sent to prison again after planning another robbery in Sussex.

When Kent Police searched his Bellfield Road home on 28 January 2015 they found weapons hidden under loft insulation, along with 10 shotgun cartridges.

Further suspicions were raised following the discovery of bags containing walkie talkies and Halloween masks.

What appeared to be a disguise kitbag was also recovered from the loft, containing several articles of Royal Mail clothing.

Castle was arrested and during police interview denied any knowledge of the firearms.

He claimed other items seized were ‘fancy dress’ and toy radios used by his children, even though he had no children under the age of 18.

DNA and fingerprintsForensic tests later detected his DNA on one of the guns, while Castle’s fingerprints were also on material wrapped around the second weapon.

Appearing at Maidstone Crown Court Castle pleaded guilty to two counts of possessing a firearm and of possessing a firearm when prohibited for life.

On 9 July he was sentenced to a total of 7 years and 8 months in prison.

Stephen Castle hid the firearm in the loft insulation Credit: Kent Police

"Castle had gone to considerable lengths to hide weapons in his home, carefully wrapping them in bin liners and bags before concealing them under loft insulation. As well as the seized shotguns, he was unable to explain the presence of post office uniforms, masks and walkie talkies, which were all set to the same channel. It is highly likely that Castle was planning to carry out a serious offence and clearly the best place for him is behind bars. I’m pleased the courts have recognised the danger he poses to the public and that the judge has passed what is a substantial prison sentence."

– Detective Inspector Karen Festing
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