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Teens in West Bay spark gun alert drama
ARMED police were called to West Bay after teenagers on a school project triggered a gun alert.
The response unit was contacted after police received a report that youngsters had firearms near the beach.
They turned out to be toy guns.
Bridport Police have given firm advice to the Sir John Colfox School on how to avoid future incidents and a warning on the dangers of imitation guns.
Former Metropolitan police officer the Rev Philip Ringer saw the youngsters near the West Bay balustrade on Saturday afternoon and called police.
He said: “The guns were very convincing from where I was, bearing in mind that was about 20 metres away.
“Because I have been with the police I know you have to take anything like that seriously.
“I didn’t say anything to anyone as I didn’t want to create alarm because that could have turned out hugely different.
“Nobody was threatened thankfully but my heart was in my mouth at one point when they went to the newsagents which was thankfully closed because even as a prank this is going to go horribly wrong.
“I had no idea what to anticipate but I was on the phone to the police control room at a distance where I could accurately describe all what was occurring.”
He said he was told the children were doing a film project but saw no evidence of that himself – and he also knows from personal experience how badly that can go. He said: “It has happened to me before years ago with a school film project that had gone wrong.
“I was asked to read details at the kid’s funeral from what was a really black film project at school.
“What I can’t believe is that the school presumably knew the content of this.
“Thankfully it was all okay and hopefully they have learned their lesson. It is about being responsible and how other people can misread what you are doing.”
Bridport Insp Mike Darby said there were strict protocols when reports of firearms are called in.
“Armed officers were aware and were heading towards West Bay prior to local officers speaking to the boys.
He said: “We only have a default position when responding to calls for people with guns – and that is we send cops with guns.
“If kids are running around with a cap gun no adult is going to get upset by it but if these guns look real and the people are of an age where they are obviously not children this is naturally going to cause concern.
“Local police officers will attend, however, we take all reports of people with firearms extremely seriously – we have to. I urge people not to play with toy guns out in public.”
He said film projects could be done in somebody’s garden or at home and with school age kids are using BB guns for a school project there should be an adult with them and police need to be told beforehand.
He added: “If people are going to play with toy guns in public they have to expect that members of the public could react adversely to it.”
Having an imitation firearm in a public place is a criminal offence and it is illegal for shops to sell black or silver guns that look real, he said.
The Sir John Colfox School sixth formers were given advice on the scene and officers attended the school.
Deputy headteacher David Herbert said the students were allowed to carry on making their film at East Cliff after police spoke to them.
He said: “Someone called it in and officers attended and spoke to the children and found out what they were doing and allowed them to carry on.
“Advice was given that if they were going to do something like it again to call it in advance and let the police know then they are aware.
“They were allowed to carry on and there was no problem.”