Police Bravery Awards

Tonight, in my role as Policing Minister, I'll be attending the Police Bravery Awards in London.  58 exceptional officers from forces across the country have been nominated by their colleagues for displaying extraordinary courage in the line of duty.

Here in Sussex, Constable Steven Hargrave has been put forward for rescuing a suicidal young man from the sea at Worthing.                               

The fatal shooting last weekend in Gateshead and the serious injury of PC David Rathband were yet another striking reminder of both the bravery of the police and the sacrifices that they make in helping to keep our streets safe.

This follows on from last month's appalling shootings in Cumbria, where 12 people tragically lost their lives.  Such an event would shock any community.  But it was doubly tough on a community that was still coming to terms with last year's severe flooding that saw PC Bill Barker - one of tonight's nominees - lose his life when a bridge in Workington collapsed whilst he was leading members of the public to safety.

In an interview I gave to the NFU this week about rural crime, I stressed that the Government will not rush to judgement on the Cumbria shootings.  We appreciate that there is a very legitimate use of shotguns and rifles in the countryside by law-abiding people.

But of course we must learn any lessons from this dreadful episode, assess the gun laws in the light of it, and ensure that the public are properly protected.  The Association of Chief Police Officers is supporting a peer review of Cumbria police, conducted by national police experts, on firearms licensing and police firearms response and tactics.  There will be a Commons debate on the issue within the next few weeks.

Tonight, though, we'll be honouring police officers for their bravery.  In the last few weeks I've been out with officers in Portsmouth and Manchester and seen at first hand their dedication to the job.  It's a privilege to be working with such professionals.

Christopher N Howarth