Police admit firearms blunder

LYN HUMPHREYS
Last updated 05:00 13/06/2014

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Taranaki police were red-faced after realising they forgot to take some firearms with them when they abandoned their old police station.

The embarrassing incident is one of two involving mislaid firearms in New Plymouth which have recently come to light.

The Taranaki Daily News has been informed workers involved in the demolition of the old New Plymouth police station two years ago discovered abandoned firearms. The workmen broke down a locked door and discovered the cache.

They informed their boss who immediately contacted police who arrived red-faced and took the firearms away.

> Editorial: Police must treat firearms with respect

Last month, police and the Ministry of Justice confirmed two Glock police-issue pistols had been stolen from the New Plymouth courthouse lock-up but they did not know when.

Taranaki area commander Inspector Blair Telford confirmed firearms were left behind two years ago.

In a statement to the Daily News, Telford said: "Taranaki police can confirm they were notified immediately of firearms and firearms parts being found by tradespeople when the old New Plymouth police station was demolished in February 2012.

"The non-police firearms and parts of firearms were non-operational and could not be fired.

"There was no risk to the public from the firearms and parts at any time. They were stored in a secure room in a locked cupboard waiting to be destroyed.

"The firearms were destroyed after police retrieved them and the matter was raised with the relevant staff members to ensure this oversight does not occur again."

A Taranaki man and firearms licence-holder who asked not to be named said the discovery of the firearms was known by a number of people in the community.

He said he and other firearms licence-holders were very concerned at the police error.

The demolition was well under way and the building had been signed over by police when the discovery was made.

"If we [licence-holders] put a foot wrong, police would soon be knocking on our doors and taking our firearms away."

New Plymouth Pistol Club president Ron Price said that in the club's experience police were extremely careful with their firearms. The police regularly used the pistol club for practice and adhered to the club's strict protocols.

"Any time they are at the club they are very protective of their firearms. They are not gung-ho in any way," Price said.

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Hunting and Fishing retailer Wayne Fairhurst said yesterday police had obviously made a mistake in not checking the locked room and would have been understandably red-faced when the discovery was made.

"Mistakes are made.

"The police are our friends and they do a good job. Firearms laws are very well controlled in New Zealand," Fairhurst said.

Problems with firearms only happened when they ended up in the wrong hands, Fairhurst said.

In the case involving the Glocks, the pistols were being kept as evidence in the police shooting of Steven Wallace at Waitara in April 2000.

The theft was only discovered after a man living in the Ruapehu district was arrested on drugs charges in the middle of last year.

One of the firearms he allegedly had at his home was a Glock which was traced back to the police shooting 14 years ago.

No-one has yet been arrested for the theft of the Glocks.

One is yet to be found.

- Taranaki Daily News

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