Britain eyes legal protection for gun police after Paris attacks

A police officer stands on duty outside Leytonstone Underground station in east London.

A police officer stands on duty outside Leytonstone Underground station in east London.

British armed police could get greater legal protection if they shoot suspected criminals after Prime Minister David Cameron ordered a review of current laws in the light of mass shootings in Paris last month, the Sunday Times reported.

Following the attacks by Islamist militants in Paris which killed 130 people, London police have said they could deal with a similar style of assault but that they are looking to increase the number of armed officers on patrol.

Unlike most forces around the world, British police are not routinely armed and currently just over 2,000 of London’s 31,000 officers are able to carry guns.

The Sunday Times, citing a senior government source, said Cameron was prepared to change current laws to give those armed officers greater protection against prosecution.

“Terrorist incidents both at home and abroad have shown very clearly the life-and-death decisions police officers have to make in split-second circumstances,” the source said, according to the newspaper.

The paper reported that the government would review whether existing laws go far enough to support officers. Currently armed police can defend their use of weapons if they “honestly and instinctively” believe that doing so is reasonable.

“We must make sure that when police take the ultimate decision to protect the safety of the public they do so with the full support of the law and the state – there can be no room for hesitation when lives are at risk,” the source told the newspaper.

Last week police launched a murder investigation and arrested a firearms officer after the fatal shooting of a 28-year-old man in north London.


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