A police officer who injured a seven-year-old Worksop girl after accidentally firing a loaded assault rifle feels ‘utterly ashamed’ and ‘embarrassed’ about the incident.
The young girl suffered a burn to her lip after bullet casing from the Heckler and Koch G36C weapon hit her following the discharge into the ground.
She was attending a family event at Nottinghamshire Police headquarters on October 30, last year, which was organised to show specialist services including police dogs, taser guns and police cars. It was attended by parents and their children, aged between six and 13.
The unnamed officer has since been redeployed to a divisional role with no firearm or taser duties following a gross incompentency hearing.
Nottinghamshire Police apologised at the time of the incident to the parents and children who attended.
“As a result of the incident I feel utterly ashamed and embarrassed to have made such a mistake by not noticing and removing the magazine,” the officer said.
“I feel I am normally meticulous in everything that I do both personally and professionally and am deeply sorry and embarrassed for any inconvenience to both members of the public and Nottinghamshire Police. This was never my intention.”
An investigation, carried out by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) concluded that operational authorised firearms officers (AFOs) should not be expected to take part in public events which involve live firearms being displayed.
The investigation found no protocols or policies were in place, prior to the incident, which dealt with the use of firearms, live or otherwise, at public events. Evidence showed no risk assessment was undertaken, concerning the use of firearms, ahead of the demonstration.
The report states that operational AFOs must have their firearms loaded, making the requirement for the weapons to be unloaded and safe for a community engagement event impossible.
The IPCC also dismissed claims the incident was initially ‘covered up’, after a colleague of the officer involved told the girl’s mum the shot fired was a ‘blank’.
The mum stated the officer had an ‘instinctual reaction’ to cover for a colleague - but the officer in question said he was ‘still trying to make sense’ of what happened. The IPCC stated the mum’s comment was not disputed, but there was insufficient evidence to prove an attempt to conceal the incident had occurred.
A second allegation that attendees were asked to keep details of the incident to themselves was also dismissed. The report states it was requested the incident was ‘contained’ to allow for a full investigation to take place.
“The incident and subsequent complaint were properly and promptly reported to the IPCC as was appropriate, this does not therefore indicate that they have sought to cover the incident up,” the report states.
Another officer, involved in the incident, has since left the firearms department. A third officer has been recommended to undergo further training in the planning of public events.
IPCC Commissioner, Derrick Campbell, said: “The seriousness of this matter cannot be underestimated. It is through good fortune that no one was more seriously injured. The officer’s actions, while not deliberate, posed a genuine risk to those present.
“A number of sensible, logical recommendations have been made which the force has accepted, including replacing live firearms with training weapons at future public events.”
Information provided as part of the investigation revealed that two previous incidents of negligent discharges of firearms at Nottinghamshire Police had taken place within 18 months prior to this incident.