Gun crime witnesses 'need anonymity'

The Lib Dems insist the Rhys Jones case could be aided if witnesses were guaranteed full anonymity.
The Lib Dems insist the Rhys Jones case could be aided if witnesses were guaranteed full anonymity.

Liberal Democrats today called for anonymity for gun crime witnesses.

Delegates at the Lib Dem conference agreed guaranteeing protection for witnesses of gun crime was essential if communities are to speak out against gangs.

The audience in Brighton refused to bow to arguments that allowing people to make anonymous allegations against gang members could be vulnerable to miscarriages of justice, if rival gang members decided to pursue a grudge through the courts.

Police investigating the murder of 11-year-old Rhys Jones in Liverpool have complained of a lack of information from the community, launching a fresh debate on the protections police can guarantee witnesses.

The spate of gang related shootings this year prompted the Lib Dem conference to hold an emergency motion on guns and gangs.

Delegates called on the government to tackle the supply of guns, with a dedicated 24-hour border force combining the activities of immigration, customs and the police.

Brian Paddick, former Met deputy assistant commissioner and Lib Dem mayoral hopeful, said the police also needed to be more intelligent in picking guns off the street.

He argued people in communities affected by gun crime support measures such as stop-and-search, but only when used intelligently.

Delegates agreed resources should be targeted at the minority of areas blighted by high gun crime. This could be paid for by abolishing the ID card scheme, which Mr Paddick described as "absolutely useless".

They also called for the home secretary Jacqui Smith to hold a summit with local leaders, including chief constables, to address the root causes of gun and gang crime.

Liberal Democrats were again heard to warn against inequality and lack of opportunity, with Mr Paddick arguing young people need a good education and legitimate means of earning an income or they will be tempted towards gangs.

Caroline Pidgeon agreed the government needed to consider why young people joined gangs, arguing they could be deterred by an engaging education system, opportunity to join positive youth groups and interaction with youth workers.

Nick Clegg, the Lib Dem's home affairs spokesman, is today meeting with the party's council leaders to prepare to lobby the home secretary to do more to tackle gun culture.


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