Assault Rifles and Sub-Machine Guns were among items at the trial yesterday of failed UK gun smugglers who brought a total of 31 illegal weapons into the UK. The automatic weapons, originally from Eastern Europe, were purchased at what were reportedly “shockingly low” prices. The smugglers also attempted to bring a large amount of ammunition into the country.
The assault rifles and SMGs had originally been deactivated but were converted back to working condition before being loaded onto a small pleasure boat in France for transport across the English Channel to the UK. Fortunately, intelligence sources enabled National Crime Agency officers to be waiting for the shipment as the boat arrived in the River Medway south east of London.
The on-going problem of gun smuggling, however, remains serious with large numbers of weapons available on the European mainland. The main concern is automatic weapons such as assault rifles and sub machine guns / pistols. This month the Manchester Evening News reported on a statement from Dave Thompson, Chief Constable of West Midlands Police, who said that weapons and gun components were arriving in the UK via postal and courier services alongside legitimate internet deliveries.
There has always been a risk of weapons filtering into the country through quiet ports and non-passenger terminals, but the surge in postal and courier traffic with the growth of the internet adds a new element which makes the work of police even more difficult, particularly at a time when resources are under pressure. Guns are still relatively difficult to acquire in the UK, so criminals are constantly seeking new ways of bringing in weapons.
Recent shootings in Paris have highlighted the risk of weapons on the street and according to Thompson are a ‘game changer’ for counter terrorism chiefs as it means that more highly trained armed police are urgently needed on the ground to provide a fast response to any similar incident rather than having to await the arrival of special forces type units who might well be too late to deal with such a terrorist attack.