The type of ammunition used by a police firearms unit has been changed following concerns raised by the coroner in the inquest of a man who was shot dead in St Neots.
Assistant Coroner for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Nicholas Moss, wrote to the National Police Chiefs’ Council and also Jon Boulcher, the chief constable of Bedfordshire Constabulary, under a Regulation 28 rule, which gives coroners the power to comment after an inquest if they believe it will prevent future deaths.
Mr Moss raised concerns about the use of unbonded ammunition by the joint armed policing unit (APU) for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire. Officers from the unit attended an incident at Richard Davies’s Duck Lane home on October 21, 2015, and he was shot with a police-issue Heckler & Koch G36 carbine rifle.
Officers were issued with 5.56mm jacketed soft point unbonded ammunition, which was not the type recommended by the Association of Chief Police Officers in its updated, but non-binding, recommendations. The association issued new recommendations in 2005 and 2012 for bonded soft point bullets to be used.
An 11-day inquest was held at Peterborough Town Hall in July and a jury ruled that Mr Davies, aged 41, had died “lawfully” from a single gunshot wound and that he “intended to get police to shoot him”.
Mr Davies subjected his three children to a terrifying ordeal during which he tied them up and told them he was going to kill them. All three escaped after jumping from an upstairs window and Mr Davies, who used a hand-made gun to fire from the house towards police, died from a single gunshot wound.
In his report, Mr Moss said: “During the course of the inquest, the evidence revealed matters giving rise of concern. In my opinion there was a risk that future deaths could occur unless action was taken.”
Mr Moss said the unbonded ammunition posed a risk of “excessive and unnecessary” injury.
He said in the report: “I am concerned that the APU has not retained proper records of decisions made in respect of operational ammunition when it has decided in the past not to follow non-binding national guidance.”
Assistant Chief Constable Paul Fullwood, head of joint protective services for Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, said: “In light of a recent review of NPCC and CAST guidance, and the appreciation of the wider developing context of firearms operations, we have now changed to bonded ammunition.
“We accept that the previous governance, including the retention of documents and rationale, around our ammunition choices required improvement. We have made changes to our processes to provide a clear audit trail of our decision-making process.”