BREAKING SWINDON WILTSHIRE

Wiltshire Police has welcomed the findings of an Independent Office for Police Conduct investigation into a police firearms incident in Swindon last June which has concluded that officers acted proportionately

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On 16 June 2020, firearms officers were deployed to an incident in Ridge Green following a report that a lorry had been stolen at gunpoint.

They intercepted the lorry in the Rivermead Industrial Estate, in Westlea, and the driver, Howard Jones, deliberately fired shots at the police, hitting an officer in the face but thankfully causing only minor injuries.

Jones was subsequently shot in the leg by an armed police officer, before being arrested.

The weapon – a gas-powered air pistol – was seized at the scene.

Due to the fact that a police firearm was discharged during the incident, the matter was automatically referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), as it is a statutory requirement to do so.

They have now completed their independent investigation and issued their findings.

It concludes that they have no concerns about the policing response to the incident.

The IOPC have not only determined there were no criminal, misconduct or performance matters identified for the police officers and staff involved, but that there is also no requirement for any organisational learning.

Assistant Chief Constable Deb Smith welcomed the findings and praised all the officers and staff for the way they handled a challenging situation.

She said: “The armed officers who responded that evening showed bravery and professionalism during a fast-moving and potentially dangerous incident, and I would like to commend them for their actions.

“It is thanks to their restraint and quick-thinking that nobody, including Jones, was seriously injured and I know the people of Swindon will join me in thanking them for their dedicated public service.

“Police officers, particularly firearms officers, often have to make split-second decisions in a bid to protect the wider public and keep people safe, and the IOPC investigation highlights the challenges they face and the professionalism they show.

“I would also like to praise all the officers and staff involved in responding to the incident on the night, as well as the detectives who have worked tirelessly on this case.

“This matter caused considerable anxiety within the town but I hope that now the full facts can be reported, they will have a better understanding of the chain of events on the evening of June 16.”

Police and Crime Commissioner Angus Macpherson said: “I welcome the IOPC’s findings and would like to reiterate the Assistant Chief Constable’s praise of all the officers and staff involved in this difficult and challenging operation and subsequent police investigation.

“Everyone involved, but particularly the firearms officers, have shown huge professionalism and dedication and are a credit to Wiltshire Police. I thank them for their service.”

He added: “I hope these findings provide some context to fully explain the events of June 16, as well as some reassurance for the local community about the policing response and the actions of the officers involved.”

Jones has since pleaded guilty to a string of offences, including blackmail, possession of an imitation firearm, robbery and assaults on two police officers, and is due to be sentenced later this month.